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Does anyone know of any posts or resources that are targeted at rationalists that help with extracting yourself and recovering from an abusive relationship?

I've been a longtime student of LessWrong and related communities, studied physics at a top school, great at programming, very introspective etc. etc. All the regular boxes checked. Just a week ago I left a relationship that I realized has become extremely abusive (both emotionally and physically) and I'm having a lot of trouble understanding how I ever got in that situation. Having intensely strong signals from my rational side (RUN RUN) and even stronger signals from my emotional side (GO BACK, YOU HAVE TO HELP HER) is a very uncomfortable position for me to be in and something I've never experienced before.

I had a moment of clarity a week ago after my significant other threatened in a calm, honest tone to give me sleeping pills, cut off certain of my body parts, and then make me watch her put them down the garbage disposal. I opened up to my entire family about everything going on over a frantically intense few hours because I realized soon I would go back to hiding what was going on so that everyone would continue to love h... (read more)

Does anyone know of any posts or resources that are targeted at rationalists that help with extracting yourself and recovering from an abusive relationship?

I hope you don't wait with getting help until you find something targeted specifically for rationalists. Get all the help you can right now. A little bullshit here and there may annoy you, but non-rationalists can also have a lot of domain-specific knowledge.


If there are any methods -- rational or not -- to erase this feeling from your mind, do it a.s.a.p. That is priority #1. Stop your brain from ruining your life.

Congratulations on telling your family. Actually, telling anyone. Saying certain things aloud allows one to think about them more clearly.

Thanks for this. I am pursuing help. I have scheduled appointments with two therapists (first office visit today) and I'm looking for a third to try to find one that I can work well with. Erasing the dangerous thoughts is the hardest part and what I wish I had better methods for. I'm in general the type of person that likes to help others, and feel more empathy for her than any other person. Part of the reason I stayed so long is that I viewed the way she was treating me as an illness and thought to myself, what would I do if she had cancer? I'd stick around and be supportive and try to get her the help she needs. That's what I should do here. That analogy breaks when you start to not feel safe though, something that took me too long to realize.

Erasing the dangerous thoughts is the hardest part and what I wish I had better methods for.

Finally an opportunity to use my Dark Arts for the benefit of humanity. Here it goes:

  • You see the abusive mentality of your girlfriend as an illness, and your support as a cure. Your urge to stay is rationalized as a hypothesis that being there, exposing yourself to the abuse, somehow cures the illness. Now let's ignore the fact that it is you and your girlfriend for a moment, and ask a general question: Do you really believe, as a general rule, that the best way to cure abusive people is to give them a supply of victims? Is there any psychological pubblication suggesting that this could be true? If you were a psychologist, would you recommend this as a therapy? Because as far as I know, it is exactly the opposite: enabling harmful behavior, protecting people from natural consequences of their actions, makes it more difficult to heal. That means, your staying in the relationship actually makes your girlfriend's illness worse.

  • Returning to your specific case, is it your personal experience that the longer you are with your girlfriend, the less abusive she gets? (Something like: at the be

... (read more)
Thank you for this, exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. Believe it or not, I've had almost every one of these thoughts myself over the last year and a half. Nope. Don't believe it at all. I have data to the contrary. I've spent a year and a half trying and the abuse has gotten progressively worse. No. She doesn't acknowledge that she has a problem. When I try to talk to her about getting help she says that her problems are because of me and if I would just do what she says (a long an unreasonable and constantly shifting list) she would get better. She also believes I deserve what she does because I "push her over the edge." Absolutely not I do this all the time. I of course would not leave her to sacrifice myself for an abusive stranger. It would tell me to leave ASAP and never look back. It would be sent as close to the beginning of the relationship as the time machine allowed. Yes and no. I believe moral duties apply to everyone and she has certainly failed at fulfilling hers. I don't think it's her fault, however you want to parse that sentence, but the consequences are real for me and should be for her too. It wouldn't at all. I do care about helping others and in my normal state I'm an extremely high functioning and successful person. I've basically become a drone that works and worries about her and that's about it. I miss my former self and getting that back is one of the things that excites me most. Thanks for the long response. The most difficult part of all this is feeling a bit insane myself. My rational mind can output the right answers, but I haven't been following them. Introspection and internal consistency (and a willingness to update) has always been something I'm naturally good at and valued greatly. I'm not the same person I was before this started and that's terrifying. I feel like I'm on the road to recovery though. Your comments are very helpful.
Heh. From a certain point of view, she really doesn't. If she cuts you up, that would be your problem. A friend of a friend was dating a person who would fit this description exactly, and... well, it would be a long story. Towards the end the person demanded that they spend the whole day together, every day, which made them both unable to keep a job, so they just kept borrowing as much money as was possible from anyone. The victim was completely brainwashed, and despite trying to do everything, was beaten regularly, more and more severely. At the end, the victim's family kidnapped the victim and kept them in another country for a few months, not allowing them to use phone or internet. This finally allowed the victim to "awaken". Meanwhile the abuser was evicted from the appartment they haven't paid rent for. Instead of finding a job, the abuser spent all their time trying to contact the victim, manipulating a wide social network quite successfully; but the family did a good job at hiding the victim until their "awakening", at which point the victim didn't want to see the abuser anymore. I don't have detailed information about what happened afterwards; I believe the family didn't call the police, but threatened to do so if the abuser tries to approach the victim anymore. (Institutions scare the abuser like shit.) The abuser is now homeless, works for food, and keeps a blog about how this all was a conspiracy of unfavorable parents against the True Love, with prayers to God to make the victim return to them. Note: the abuser is an atheist, but the victim is strongly religious; everything the abuser does is a calculated manipulation. Hopefully, as a homeless person, their ability to charm and seduce people will be diminished. The victim is back, living a normal life again, as far as I know. This happened about five years ago. So, congratulations on quitting soon enough! You were not harmed; you didn't lose your job and savings. For the victim in my story, it took l
If you felt empathy for her, it would be the feeling of threatening to hurt you. You are feeling sympathy, guilt or something else. There is a difference.
I disagree with the one-sidedness of this advice - esp. without knowing all that much about the situation. I have also been in a not really alike but also difficult situation and there are many layers. See also this. It might be that he understands only just too well that it was a mutual cycle. It might also be a cry for help on her side. Not that the method is acceptable but a signal it is. And I imagine a smart person can help her. Without going back. Someone else might help. Whatever help is the right kind here.

I'm still stuck in the Dark Arts mode and I'm aware of it, but I will ask you anyway:

Would you also give the same relationship advice to a battered woman?

I didn't give any advice. I urged for understanding that the situation might be more complex and layered than implied by the simplicity of the advice IN ALL CAPS. I hedged with lots of 'might' and 'if'. And I didn't intend to imply that the relationship should be repaired (at least not the romantic one; one cpuld hope to get along well though). In my worldview everyone is the hero of their own story to use that old picture and I work from the assumption that no side meant evil. It is difficult and may in many cases be impossible to untangle the vicious circle that developed. but even if one doesn't interact personally after the break-up doesn't mean that one can not or may not feel empathy and help. It could be possible to help indirectly in many ways like telling mutual friends or acquaintances to help. Offer to contact help lines or even offer material expenses (quite relevant in cases of break-ups). If these are refused or accusations are made due to it for me personally the human possible limit is reached. Also I don't think that there is a moral responsibility to help that much at all. Everyone has to draw ones individual line somewhere. Maybe I'm more altruistic than average. And yes. Obviously I'd also propose to listen to a battered woman when she proposes to help her ex. If she understands the dynamics of his anger and maybe her part in the mutual circle. I don't propose that she go back to him though.
This feeds directly into what the OP has just broken free from: a cycle of continuously re-convincing himself that this relationship might not be what it appears on the surface and that he still has a responsibility to the other party. One-sided advice is exactly what the brain needs to stop it from falling back to the endless well of excuses and rationalizations.
Maybe. But if you don't know more than I do from what what posted here your can't say with the strength you did in your post (though agree that by now some more details have become apparent). I have been in a probably much less but still abusive relationship and if your are smart, reflective and it's not too abusive (though I guess that the level of abuse changes over time) you can break up without loosing everything of the relationship. After all both sides have a part in it and by denying worth one looses or misrepresents also ones own part in it. My view of her and us has changed by our breakup but I salvaged positive emotion for her, esp. the things we did right and what was good about her - without feeling compelled to help her overly. A point he is over too apparently now (yes, it does take time). Could you back that up with non-anecdotal evidence please.

Speaking as somebody who could easily be on the other side of that equation, except for a very rigorous moral system, including a rule to stay the hell away from people who scream "Victim!" into my brain, I can tell you exactly how you got into that situation.

She became whatever you needed her to be, in order for you to be the target she wanted you to be. (I can manipulate anybody into doing anything. I just have to become the person they would do that thing for - and my self is flexible in ways most people couldn't imagine.)

In particular, she became somebody who needed help, because you would try to help her.

It's important to realize - she doesn't need help. She never needed help. The person you want to help doesn't exist, and never did. That person was a mask that the person who threatened you wore to make you vulnerable.

Allow yourself to mourn the person you thought she was. But do not imagine that that person was ever her.

I've been thinking about your post for some time. It's sounds compelling and I can't quite put my finger on why. I want to rule out that it's just cause I like the things you post and your style. Can you elaborate on your victim rule please? Perhaps you don't want to be the target an accusation of victimisation by someone who misattributes that status to people?
When I say they scream "Victim!", it's in something the way a rabbit's movements yell in a wolf's brain. It's hard to describe. It draws out predatory elements.
Thank you for the insight. To all those who've read some HPMoR, I find it interesting that that's basically how Quirrel describes his and Harry's... differences from most people.
Please write more about every part of your experience. As we know from a related field; "people who are sleep deprived don't know how sleep deprived they are". People in an abusive relationship don't know they are in an abusive relationship (until the moment of clarity) any writing about noticing things will help people potentially get away from bad relationships. Edit: have some karma to help you recover and/also reap successful feeling from your present adventure
Thanks for the encouragement, I do intend to write more. It's only been a week since I removed myself from the situation, and I'm already starting to feel shocked at how much worse it was than I realized at the time. Seeing the faces and hearing the comments of friends and family when I tell them stories makes a world of difference. Not one person has told me I'm making a bad decision. If you'd asked me 3 years ago if I could ever be in a situation like this I would have assigned it very very low probability. Low probability events happen, but I think what is more likely is that it's a lot easier than I thought to become normalized to an increasingly toxic environment over time. I think the best advice I could give so far is, if you think you're in an abusive relationship, talk to people about it. On some level I knew something was very wrong, but I began lying to family and friends about what was going on. I did this both to protect her, and to protect our future relationships as a couple. I was always optimistic about getting to a better place, and I didn't want people to hate her once we were there. I told my mother one small story once (far from the worst thing that had happened, and one story among many) and she called me in tears several weeks later saying she was worried I'd hate her for it but she had to tell me that she didn't think the wedding was a good idea (we were engaged). I'm going to write a lot over the coming weeks and will make a post here if I think I uncover any worthwhile advice.
There's this, both for dealing with the aftermath of the break-up, as well as the break-up itself.
Thank you very much this is helpful.
beat me to it!
I think your feelings will change over time. Changing how you think about something may not change how you feel now, but it may lead to changes in how you feel in the future. It kind of sucks right now, but I don't think this conflict between your feelings and thoughts is permanent. It's a temporary thing you are going through. Here are some articles I read that helped me understand abusive relationships a little better. “I Can Handle It”: On Relationship Violence, Independence, and Capability http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/08/08/i-can-handle-it-on-relationship-violence-independence-and-capability/ It’s Not Your Relationship That’s Abusive, It’s Your Partner – Here’s Why That Distinction Matters http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/its-not-your-relationship-thats-abusive-its-your-partner-heres-why-that-distinction-matters/ Also, when a friend of mine was in a similar situation, he said that reading a book about Borderline Personality Disorder was helpful. His girlfriend had that. Your situation may be different. I also think it may help to read books to help learn about and remember what healthy relationships look like. John Gottman's books are my favourite for that. Gottman has studied thousands of real life couples in his lab and has a good idea of what works and what doesn't. Here's one that I liked, though if another of his books jibes with you more, then you might want to get that one: Why Marriages Succeed and Fail by John Gottman http://www.amazon.com/Why-Marriages-Succeed-Fail-Yours/dp/0684802414/ And, Gottman has studied abusive relationships, and attempted to figure out why people abuse, and what patterns they have. He wrote a book about it, focusing on men abusing women, but I think it would be useful in the reverse situation. When Men Batter Women by John Gottman and Neil Jacobson https://www.gottman.com/shop/when-men-batter-women/
That first link is very interesting-- what I'm taking away from it is that there is no shortcut. Your gut isn't necessarily on your side. Neither is your partner. The ideology which says it's on your side may not be quite as good as you think it is. The odds (if we can go with the article and its comments) that your friends are on your side are relatively good, but it's still a gamble. You have to keep drilling down and hope that you hit reality.
Buy and read this book right now: "No More Mr. Nice Guy" by Robert Glover (I can't tell from your post whether you are male or female, but it doesn't matter. The book is equally good for either.) In essence, this book may help you learn how to stop being a victim, how to set your own limits, and how to get your own needs met. It also may inoculate you against getting into future relationships like this.
As someone who has been through a lot of abuse, beware. Your future self, not your current self, feels the fallout from the abuse more so than your current self. You have adapted to your abusive situation, when it goes away, you will be maladapted. Get out. Just take it on blind faith that you should get out if you have to. You don't want to end up like me. In my case I was indeed subjected to violence like what might happen to you. To this day, I regret not retaliating, killing my abuser or torturing them back to save myself from even a portion of it. And I'm well aware that's very much not normal. Now, even though I have the opportunity, I don't want to and won't, but if I could go back in time, well...the point is that you should get out, and that's not at all going to be the hard point from there.
If someone threatens you and/or abuses you, call the police. That stuff is illegal. Do so as soon as you safely can.

Do any digital nomads read LessWrong? What region are you in? How did you setup your remote work? What is the best/worst feature of the lifestyle? What was the biggest surprise? Is anyone else thinking about trying out the lifestyle?

I tried it, but at the time I found it very hard to focus. it's a lot like working at home – you need to be very good at creating your own routines and structure, and managing your own projects. If that's not you, develops those skills first. Getting work where you train those skills is a good approach.


Argues for mixing up what you're learning (at least within a subject) rather than trying to just focus on one thing at a time.

The value of interleaving is evidence that a lot of conventional education is about teaching people to endure boredom, and this is a very bad mistake.

It's weak evidence for the first, proposition, but I don't think it's any evidence for the second. I suspect you're right, but to play devils advocate, it could be that training/selecting for grit could be more important for future success than the learning is.
It's at least a little evidence that training people to endure boredom is a bad idea, since boredom is part of inefficient learning. School has enough prestige that I think a lot of people come out of it believing that if they can't learn in a school like environment, they can't learn at all. Sometimes they just apply it to one subject, sometimes to all subjects commonly taught in school, sometimes they give up on learning.
Oh, yeah. Boredom is almost synonymous with school. :(
Interleaving is great. After reading about this a few months ago, I realized how I did Anki was bad. I had separate decks for each subject. To interleave, you could put everything in one deck, but you'd only be able to organize by tag then. I figured out a better way to interleave in Anki. Create a filtered deck which takes X random cards from all your other decks. You can make X as big or small as you want. Incidentally, this also made me realize how much of a cue studying by deck was. The subject of some cards was no longer obvious because of how I wrote them, so I've slowly been disambiguating them. This is good, I think, as in reality you often don't have such a strong cue that says "use knowledge from X subject".
For those interested in further reading: Robin Hanson's take, popularly-written book.

I had a realization today that does not grant a separate thread.

I'm reading RAZ and got to Mysterious Answers, specifically Explain/Worship/Ignore?

I have kids. Most people know that kids love the question "why?" (If you didn't know - now you do. My family of origin has a joke that the last question of a longest stretch was number 37: why is mummy chewing on the carpet?)

When my daughter asks "why", I give her some answers usually pondering how I can influence the direction of the questions and information that I give her*. But in light o... (read more)

Why questions are very good and should be encouraged! But also, it is worth improving the questions, in addition to just answering them. So if a child asks "why is the bus going?", you can ask for a clarification "Do you mean what makes it move? Or do you mean where is it going?"; this models clearer language and better communication skills, it helps the child get an answer to the specific question that they intended, and it prevents why-questions from becoming the default I'm-bored-so-I-will-say-why-until-people-get-sick-of-talking-to-me routine. Sorry, I know that was slightly off-topic.

Are there any lesswrong-like sequences focused on economics, finance, business, management? Or maybe just internet communities like lesswrong focused on these subjects?

I mean, the sequences introduced me to some really complex knowledge that improved me a lot, while simultaneously being engaging and quite easy to read. It is only logical to assume that somewhere on the web, there must be some articles in the same style covering different themes. And if there are not, well, someone must surely do this, I think there is some demand for this kind of content. ... (read more)

Eliezer used an approach of gradual but entertaining introduction so that a good many people stayed interested even though he was also encouraging them to make significant changes in the way they think. He also offered varied and interesting examples so that people understood what he meant. I think you're overoptimistic about equivalent sequences for other subjects. I hope I'm wrong.
http://eco-comics.blogspot.com/ <- For economics - not a sequence, per se, but covering a broad range of material in an entertaining and (AFAIK) novel way. http://eco-comics.blogspot.com/2009/06/justice-league-and-comparative.html <- Probably the best post there

I find myself occasionally in conversations that aim at choosing one of two (or more) courses of action. Here are some patterns that arise that frustrate me:

A: We'll get to City in an hour. When we're there, do you want to do X? Or maybe Y?
B: I haven't thought about it yet, I've been dodging sheep and potholes. What do you want to do?
A: Whatever you're comfortable doing.
B: Umm ... Which is easier to get to?
A: I don't know. Or, we could do C, D, or E?
B: Now I'm getting choice paralysis.
A: Well, I wanted to see if you were really enthusiastic for any of them... (read more)

This happens to my spouse and me very often. We've gotten pretty good at noticing after the second "I dunno, what do you want to do" round that we need to switch from ask mode to tell mode. Don't give options, just propose something, and say "any objection must take the form of a counterproposal" (yes, we say literally this sentence to each other a few times a week). Especially when one partner is more tired than the other, we can instead just have the more engaged partner pick something and the tired one get one or two vetos before being forced to step up and actually accept something. This isn't always comfortable, especially when it's unclear that there exists a good solution.
Most of my social circle says "dinner semantics" to mean exactly this. So far we've skirted but basically avoided the trap of gaming it by bluffing - proposing an option you know is unacceptable to force someone else to propose.
It sounds to me as though the problem is that neither of you are very enthusiastic about any of the choices. One possibility is to identify a list of what's tolerable and then use a random method for choosing. Another is to talk with each other about what each of you really like at a time when you aren't distracted and tired. It's conceivable that one or both of you aren't good at remembering what you really like, in which case keeping records would help.
Along the same lines, although less generally applicable but with higher potential payoff; if neither person is very enthusiastic about an activity, it is worth looking at ways to eliminate it, change it, or automate it. For example, if you are not enthusiastic about going out to eat, you might look at eating at home; if you do not want to go into the city, perhaps only one of you should go, or perhaps you can look into way to order goods online and complete tasks remotely. The pro and con list of each of these modifications is long, and any given solution might work for you. However, I have had good results from deleting 'meh' activities from my routines, and things like hanging out with your SO and eating are really supposed to be intrinsically motivating, not exercises in satisficing.
I would usually approach these types of decisions by doing research in advance, so that the options can be considered when not driving over potholes and hungry. For example, the day before going to a city, A and B could each look up yelp reviews of restaurants in the city, and each write down a first choice and a second choise of the restaurants they would most like to go to, given constraints (eg. close to their other destination, open at the right time.) Then they could compare lists, and discuss, and decide which restaurant to go to before even leaving for the destination. My impression from reading the conversations is that A and B are relatively good at communicating. They have different styles of communicating and different preferences. Over time, A and B might get to know each other's preferences better and be able to predict how the other person will respond with more accuracy, and that may shorten the amount of time it takes. I'm not sure there is a shortcut to convergence. The problem may be more that you are discussing things when tired and hungry and doing other things such as driving. If you have such conversations while you are both feeling kind of crappy, it may take longer to sort things out than if you discuss when in better circumstances.

Meta: This thread was late; the usual guy was busy. I guess I am volunteering to do it for MrMind.

That's fine, but could you please change the font to the default one? Comic Sans is... ehh, not the best choice for most things.
My eternal apologies - I don't see it these days because I browse with this - Comic sans browsing for chrome. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/comicsans/gjdmedkdcpefbnnkiogiiejipfepjdhm?hl=en It's delightful.

Heh. Qualify this under "crazy ideas". Chinese tech companies are motivating programmers by hiring cheerleaders. It would be interesting to know if this increases productivity. Do cheerleaders help improve results sports teams?

My instinct is that cheerleaders don't improve results for sports teams, but that that also isn't their function.

On the original topic, I've actually encountered the situation of "environment filled with dude programmers with poor social skills suddenly gets a few very attractive ladies who have incentives to be nice to them." My frat went co-ed senior year.

To put things mildly, productivity did not improve.

On the other hand, a lot more guys wanted to join up. So my guess is that the office cheerleaders do not make existing programmers more productive (and may in fact do the opposite), but that they may make the office more desirable as a work environment to prospective hires.

That depends on what you consider to be the main purpose of a sports team - winning matches or providing entertainment and selling tickets to their games.

The best response to that article that I've seen so far: -- burgerissues on reddit
Related: -- Scott Aaronson
I could cite numerous examples suggesting otherwise, NASA during the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo era being the most famous.
Well mission control and the astronaut core were all male. Didn't seem to interfere with their ability to attract and retain top talent.
Never saw a CS department that looked like a monastery. As to pirate ships, well... :-D
They don't seem to be exactly cheerleaders. Their function seems to very similar to that of hostesses in nightclubs.
Possibly. It depends what you hire them to do. See "The Wolf of Wall Street" for an example of effective (in the short term) motivation.

Suppose someone offers you the chance to play the following game:

You are given an initial stake of $1. A fair coin is flipped. If the result is TAILS, you keep the current stake. If the result is HEADS, the stake doubles and the coin is flipped again, repeating the process.

How much money should you be willing to pay to play this game?


1 flip  --- $1  probability 1/2
2 flips -- $2  probability 1/4
3 flips -- $4  probability 1/8
4 flips -- $8  probability 1/16

The expected value doesn't converge but it grows extremely slowly, where almost all the benefit comes from an extremely tiny chance of extremely large gain. The obvious question is counterparty risk: how much do you trust the person offering the game to actually be able to follow through with what they offered?

If we think of this as a sum over coin flips, each flip you think is possible gives another $0.50 in expected value. So if you think they're probably only good for amounts up to $1M then because it takes 20 flips to pass $1M the expected value is $0.50 * 19 or $9.50. Similarly if you think they're good for $1B then that's 29 flips max for an expected value of $14.50. You could be fancy and try to model your uncertainty about how much they're good for, but that's probably not worth it. And you do want to take into account that someone offering something like this with no provision for how they'll handle extremely large payouts is probably not entirely on the level.

Expected value is also not the right metric here, since we all have diminishing marginal returns. Would you enjoy $1B 1,000x as much as $1M? Even if you're giving your winnings to charity there are still some limits to our ability to effectively use additional donations.

Short answer: $5. (This trusts them to be good for $1024, and is in a range where utility should still be pretty much linear in money.)

I was thinking that you should take into account the fact that if you got several trillion dollars, that only entitled you to half of America's resources, and if you got infinite dollars it would only give you 100% of America's resources. It turns out that similar notions have already been studied and the expected value calculated for them on Wikipedia (well, they just assumed that the bankroll was US GDP and didn't look at a quantity theory of money solution specifically, but same diff).
As formulated, zero -- under the rules you posted you never win anything. Is there an unstated assumption that you can stop the game at any time and exit with your stake?
I guess I didn't formulate the rules clearly enough--if the coin lands on tails, you exit with the stake. For example, if you play and the sequence is HEADS -> HEADS -> TAILS, you exit with $4. The game only ends when tails is flipped.
Also notice that as formulated ("You are given an initial stake of $1") you don't have any of your own money at risk, so... And if the game only ends when TAILS is flipped, there is no way to lose, is there? If the first $1 comes from you, you are basically asking about the "double till you win" strategy. You might be interested in reading about the St.Petersburg paradox.
Reading the wikipedia article on the St Petersburg paradox, that's exactly the game tetronian2 has described.
Yep. I don't think I was ever aware of the name; someone threw this puzzle at me in a job interview a while ago, so I figured I'd post it here for fun.
The money that's "at stake" is the amount you spend to play the game. Once the game begins, you get 2^(n) dollars, where n is the number of successive heads you flip.

How many rationalists live in Africa, and especially South Africa? I'm kind of surprised that there is no LW meetup anywhere in Africa, I would have guessed that at least South Africa or Nigeria are sufficiently developed and have sufficiently prevalent internet access to have one. Should somebody who has more conscientiousness than I do (at least for now) start one here in South Africa?

In general you start meetups in cities and not countries. Do you happen to live Johannesburg or Cape Town? It doesn't need that much conscientiousness. You just need to reserve a table at a restaurant.
Well I guess, to start one does not require that much conscientiousness, but to maintain one as the hero does.
If you actually get people together there a chance that another person is willing to maintain it.
If you're rational and you're in South Africa, why are you still in South Africa? How much do you value your life over the trivial inconvenience of moving?
I'm a high school graduate, if I had good grades I would study overseas provided that I got a scholarship since during the next two years my parents won't earn much money. However, I have terrible grades (global average score in the international program I did) so that's not an easy option. I have slowly been building my conscientiousness to a point where, instead of learning lots of random things that interest me, I can systematically pursue an academic goal. So there's the possibility of extending a mandatory gap half-year, to a gap year where in the second half of my gap year I take say AP exams.
Moving from your home country is rarely a trivial inconvenience. Also, even assuming a high level of instrumental rationality, some preference sets would best be served by remaining in South Africa.
...oddly strong words...
The homicide rate is 6.6 times what it is in America (US = 4.7 vs. SA = 31.0). And there are 107 countries with lower homicide rates than the US. However, your specific locale in these countries and specific factors about you and your behaviors are more relevant than the overall homicide rate.
You know that's better than the homicide rate in New Orleans, LA or Newark, NJ -- right? X-/
Sure, but if you want to play that game, throw Cape Town into the mix :-)
The original question was: Are you going to argue that everyone in New Orleans, Newark, etc. should immediately move out?
Maybe he meant life expectancy. Anyway, that too is locale specific and depends on your life style and (increasingly with age) on healthcare availability - which could be hampered a lot by moving abroad. Not taking into account increased stress due to unfamiliar environment and (likely) less satisfying job.
Life expectancy in SA is mostly dragged down by high infant mortality and the incidence of AIDS. Not that those might not be important to you, but they are manageable risks for an adult.

I'm going coldturkey on compulsive porn, music, junk foods, procrastination, negativity, worry, approval and gambling, all of which have been conceptualised as addictions, for at least one year and hopefully life. I've tried this moderation approach fmany times and failed, so this is it.

Why cold turkey on music? Instead, maybe it would be better to find music that does not disrupt your concentration. Also, some people say its better to change one thing at a time.
Gwern seems to have some evidence that music is always distracting.
A study that tests the effects on music on a task involving listening or speaking is not obviously relevant to tasks that do not involve your auditory pathways. Also, [always distracting to the majority] does not equal [always distracting to everyone]. There is limited evidence that listening to music can help some people with ADHD maintain focus (something that I have personally found to be the case in non-academic situations). Reference. My personal experience is that on task in which I am distractible because I am bored or under-engaged, music helps keep my 'squirrel!' circuit from firing.
Actually, I think when I said "always distracting" I was thinking about myself. I'm pretty much in front of a computer during my entire waking hours, so always involved with text. I agree that it doesn't have to be distracting for other kinds of activities like manual work. With the ADHD study, I wonder if that might work by the music actually distracting them, but not by as much as other things would distract them without the music. Of course even if this is the case, the study would still show that it is helpful for them.
Good luck!
Cold turkey has always worked best form than gradual adjustment. BUT changing too many things at the same time is taxing on short term memory, and casual relapsing sometime meant a downward spiral that ended up disrupting the process. I find it easir to remember to quit one thing at a time, I get less frustration from this approach.
Posting to thank you because your suggestion has helped me conquer a strong wave of sugar/carb cravings by listening to something.

Is it bad to sleep in a hunched over or crunching or hooked kind of position?

After you are asleep you likely move soon anyway. That means you likely don't get very far by optimizing sleeping position.
The fetal position is fine. Avoid sleeping on your belly, but sleeping on the sides and back is fine too. As far as I'm aware, leg positioning is mostly to your tastes aside from that both of them should have the same position; don't have one outstretched and the other tucked against you.
I dunno, what does a literature search tell you?

yyay charity

I may be misremembering, but, I seem to recall Givewell looking directly at education measures.

I've always been annoyed by how icky traditional sunscreen makes me feel, so I was happy to find out that there's a roll-on sunscreen that works reasonably well. I've used it a couple of times now, and while I wasn't outside for long enough that I would have burned when I used it in either case-- and therefore can't comment on the effectiveness of a single layer of the stuff-- I would say that applying it was much quicker and easier than applying traditional sunscreen. While applying sunscreen isn't the lowest hanging fruit in health interventions out ther... (read more)


Basic sunscreen is zinc. To get that into an applicable form it is usually put into an oil suspension. As mentioned you don't like the oil. You can also get alcohol based suspension sunscreens that feel a lot nicer; and sunscreen in spray form. The benefit of oil is that it doesn't wash off so easily. But there's no point being stuck with oil based sunscreen if they make you feel that uncomfortable

This link might help: http://www.skinacea.com/sunscreen/physical-vs-chemical-sunscreen.html#.VdunDbKqqko as should https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunscreen

I was told a while ago that Asian sunscreen is different and less greasy and I bought some Japanese sunscreen from the internet. It feels much better than the regular American stuff.
Have you tried spray-on sunscreen?
Sunlight increases risk of melanoma but decreases risk of other, more deadly cancers. If you're going to get, say, 3 times your usual daily sunlight exposure, then sunscreen is probably a good idea, but otherwise it's healthier to go without. I'd guess a good heuristic is to get as much sunlight as your ancestors from 1000 years ago would have gotten.
I've got your citations.. right here This whole article is worth reading, and has a number of counter-intuitive findings.
I've seen so many claims about the benefit or lack thereof of sunscreen. Do you have a citation?
This is something I'd eventually like to look into. Do you know which cancers sunlight protects against? Might sun exposure after one has applied sunscreen provide some protection against these cancers?

I have an impression that conscientiousness feels like an outside force. Instead of "I choose to tidy up/proofread my writing/tip the server", it's more like "the situation requires that I do the right thing".

Does this match other people's experience? Does conscientiousness feel more like an outside force than other behaviors?

Often, yes, but this is highly dependent on the task -- and sometimes the sub-task. For example, when writing finding the correct word for an idea is motivating, but proofreading for spelling is a chore. I can name a good number of tasks that I do because I am internally motivated, including looking up definitions, washing my hair, organizing my bookshelves, making checklists and flowcharts, grocery shopping, gardening... but just as many (and probably more) that I don't do unless I really feel I need to because it is expected of me. I think that part of this is that unmotivating tasks tend to stick in your mind as always present and demanding, but the things you enjoy doing are all too fleeting. It is also possible that you are unconsciously defining conscientiousness as "things you should do but don't want to", in which case by definition they will require an external force.
To me these are much the same thing. I am one with the situation. When I clearly see what is necessary, the action follows. At least, that's the ideal, which I don't claim to always achieve.
I might not understand what you mean by conscientiousness. The things that most feel like things I must do are going to bed and getting up. Are they conscientiousness?
I'll tentatively define conscientiousness as orderly behavior, especially such behavior which is intended to prevent medium-to-low probability bad consequences. Why do you feel you have to go to bed and get up?
What would be an example of disorderly behavior? I think all behavior is ordered. I have to go to bed because otherwise I'll be very tired tomorrow. I have to get up because I have stuff to do. I hate going to bed and I hate getting up.
I'm not tired yet, so I won't go to bed. Just one more web video. etc.
This is exactly how conscientiousness feels to me - not wanting to do something but doing so because it's the Correct Action For This Situation. Generally, this applies to things that don't give me a direct, immediate benefit to do, like cleaning up after myself in a common space.
I don't think so... probably less so than other behaviors, in fact.
In Freudian terms, conscientiousness is very straightforward: in involves putting the lid on your id and doing what the superego tells you.

This might be of interest to LW.

From the abstract:

Intellectual ability may be an endophenotypic marker for bipolar disorder. Within a large birth cohort, we aimed to assess whether childhood IQ (including both verbal IQ (VIQ) and performance IQ (PIQ) subscales) was predictive of lifetime features of bipolar disorder assessed in young adulthood. ... There was a positive association between IQ at age 8 years and lifetime manic features at age 22 – 23 years

I'm not sure what "lifetime manic features at age 22 – 23 years" means. Lifetime, or between ages 22 and 23? But the numbers: I shall be generous and take the upper end of their range for the correlation, and round it up to c = 0.2. The shared variance is c^2 = 0.04. That is childhood IQ "explains" (in the technical sense of that word) 4% of the variance of "lifetime manic features at age 22 – 23 years". For the following calculations I assume, for no reason other than mathematical simplicity, that we are dealing with a bivariate normal distribution. However, I doubt the overall message would be very different for whatever the real distribution is. The mutual information between the variables, is log2( 1/sqrt(1-c^2) ) = 0.0294 bits. What can you do with 30 millibits? You might try to use IQ at age 8 to predict "lifetime manic features at age 22 – 23 years". How much will knowing the former narrow your estimate of the latter? The ratio (standard deviation conditional on that information)/(unconditional standard deviation) is sqrt(1-c^2) = 0.980. That is, the spread is 2% smaller. Suppose you try to predict from IQ at age 8, whether their "manic features" will be above or below the average? By random guessing you will be right 50% of the time. By using that information, you will be right (1/π)acos(−c) of the time = 56%. Perhaps, if the IQ is really high, the "manic features" will be more significantly above the average? In principle, yes, but in practice, not enough to matter. The probability that an individual has an IQ high enough to be 95% sure that they will be above average for "manic features" is 7.5 x 10^-14. Of course, the bivariate normal approximation cannot be observably accurate so far out, but I think it gives an indication of the scale of the matter. The mathematics underlying the calculations can be found here. The figures at the end include a scatterplot of what c=0.2 looks like. That was the lowest correlation for which I thought it worth whi
I'm not sure, not having read the paper, but I would expect that "Lifetime manic features at age 22-23 years" means "number of manic features experienced in the time prior to 22-23 years of age" (i.e. we measured IQ of a bunch of 8-year-olds 15 years ago, and those people are now in the range of 22-23 years of age, and we ask how many manic episodes they've had in that time).
Ah, that makes sense.

I remember seeing a paper about a woman (still alive) with basically absent frontal lobe, yet only slight mental retardation and no serious problems, a month or two ago, but can't find it now. Does anybody have a link?


The description on Wikipedia of reactions to brief reactive psychosis is confusing and interesting. Can anyone who's experienced it share their experiences?


Slouching is unbecoming and say say it increases back pain. I have chronic lower back pain. When I feel like slouching or hunching, because I'm too tired to sit up straight, what are some alternatives where lying down is inappropriate?

Practice a lot when you are not too tired; exercising those muscles and building a habit of standing/sitting up straight will slowly increase your ability to do so more consistently. I am much better able to maintain good posture comfortably and for longer periods of times when standing, and setting up my home computer with a standing desk has improved my posture and reduced my back pain. I have also heard it recommended to have a mirror in a place where you will see yourself slumping; it will motivate you to sit/stand up when you see yourself. This has not been very practical for me, but may work for others.
I think that's largely outdated thought. Frequently taught and as a result global back pain rises rather then lowers. You get back pain when you freeze your body and prevent it from moving. If you get an impulse to slouch inside your body follow it and make the movement consciously. That means your back goes back while the shoulders go up and in front. If you shoulders go down while they are going in front you will likely tense up. Conscious breathing can also be very valuable as a tool to stay in touch with your body.

I'm very confused about something related to the Halting Problem. I discussed this on the IRC with some people, but I couldn't get across what I meant very well. So I wrote up something a bit longer and a bit more formal.

The gist of it is, the halting problem lets us prove that, for a specific counter example, there can not exist any proof that it halts or not. A proof that it does or does not halt, causes a paradox.

But if it's true that there doesn't exist a proof that it halts, then it will run forever searching for one. Therefore I've proved that the pr... (read more)

Fortunately, H will never find your argument because it is not a correct proof. You rely on hidden assumptions of the following form (given informally and symbolically): If φ is provable, then φ holds. Provable(#φ) → φ where #φ denotes the Gödel number of the proposition φ. Statements of these form are generally not provable. This phenomenon is known as Löb's theorem - featured in Main back in 2008. You use these invalid assumptions to eliminate the first two options from Either H returns true, or false, or loops forever. For example, if H returns true, then you can infer that "FF halts on input FF" is provable, but that does not contradict FF does not halt on input FF.
I'm very confused. Of course if φ is provable then it's true. That's the whole point of using proofs.
But that statement isn't provable.
Then just assume it as an axiom.
Then the paradox you were describing fires and the system becomes inconsistent.
Yes, but it may be true without being provable.
It is not that these statements are "not generally valid", but that they are not included within the axiom system used by H. If we attempt to include them, there will be a new statement of the same kind which is not included. Obviously such statements will be true if H's axiom system is true, and in that sense they are always valid.
The intended meaning of valid in my post is "valid step in a proof" in the given formal system. I reworded the offending section. Yes, and one also has to be careful with the use of the word "true". There are models in which the axioms are true, but which contain counterexamples to Provable(#φ) → φ.
Gödel's incompleteness bites here. What theory is your halt-testing machine H searching for a proof within? H can only find termination proofs that are derivable from the axioms of that theory. What theory is your proof that H(FL,FL) does not terminate expressed in? I believe it will necessarily not be the same one.
To expand on this - check_if_proof_proves_x_halts will be working using a certain set of axioms and derivation rules. When you prove that H(FL, FL) doesn't halt, you also use the assumption that check_if_proof_proves_x_halts will definitely return the true answer, which is an assumption that check_if_proof_proves_x_halts doesn't have as an axiom and can't prove. (And the same for ..._x_doesnt_halt.) So H can't use your proof. When it calls check_if_proof_proves_x_doesnt_halt on your proof, that function returns "false" because your proof uses an axiom that that function doesn't believe in. I'm not super confident about this stuff, but I think this is broadly what's going on.
I guess the answer to this point is that when constructing the proof that H(FL, FL) loops forever, we assume that H can't be wrong. So we are working in an extended set of axioms: the program enumerates proofs given some set of axioms T, and the English-language proof in the tumblr post uses the axiom system T + "T is never wrong" (we can write this T+CON(T) for short). Now, this is not necessarily a problem. If you have reason to think that T is consistent, then most likely T+CON(T) is consistent also (except in weird cases). So if we had some reason to adopt T in the first place, then working in T+CON(T) is also a reasonable choice. (Note that this is different from working in a system which can prove its own consistency, which would be bad. The difference is that in T+CON(T), there is no way to prove that proofs using the additional "T is never wrong" axiom are correct). More generally, the lesson of Gödel's incompleteness theorem is that it does not make sense to say that something is "provable" without specifying which proof system you are using, because there are no natural choice for an "ideal" system, they are all flawed. The tumblr post seems paradoxical because it implicitly shifts between two different axiom sets. In particular, it says but a correct statement is, we can't prove it either using the same set of axioms as H used. We have to use some addtional ones.
EDIT: Okay, now I read your article, and I see that what I wrote here is irrelevant. Leaving it here anyway, maybe someone else will like it. I admit I didn't read your linked article thoroughly, but I will try to explain the basic theory and terminology. In computer science, when we are talking about a computation that for any input always ends in a finite time and provides an answer, we call such computation algorithm, and the mathematical function computed by this algorithm is called "total recursive function" (or "computable function"). When we are talking about a computation that could potentially run forever, and such case of running forever is treated as an implied special value, we call such computation program, and the mathematical function computed by this algorithm is called "partial recursive function" -- a mathematical function with an undefined value for inputs where the program runs forever. (Algorithms are a subset of programs, and total recursive functions are a subset of partial recursive functions.) Specifically, if we care about computations returning "yes" or "no", an algorithm corresponds to a total recursive function from X to { "yes", "no" }, where "X" is the input domain: strings, numbers, whatever your computation accepts as a valid input. If we care about computations that potentially run forever, such program corresponds to a partial recursive function from X to { "yes" }, where not returning value is an implied "no". (You could have other, equivalent definitions, but that would only make things less elegant mathematically.) When debating things such as Halting Problem we have to pay extra big attention to the proper distinction between algorithms and programs, or respectively between total and partial recursive functions. When speaking about programs / partial recursive functions we have to pay attention to which answer is the implied one in case of the infinite computation (is "yes" explicit and "no" implied, or is "no" explicit an
Also, there is definitely some objective fact where you cannot get the right answer: "After thinking about it, you will decide that this statement is false, and you will not change your mind." If you conclude that this is false, then the statement will be true. No paradox, but you are wrong. If you conclude that this is true, then the statement will be false. No paradox, but you are wrong. If you make no conclusion, or continuously change your mind, then the statement will be false. No paradox, but the statement is undecidable to you.
No; provable and true are not the same thing. It may be the case that the program halts, but it is nevertheless impossible to prove that it halts except by "run it and see", which doesn't count.
Okay, an attempt to clear up the Halting Problem: The proofs in question say it is impossible to algorithmically arrive at a Yes-or-No answer to the generalized question, "Does algorithm X have non-trivial property Y for input Z?", for any specific property Y. Poorly written proof at the bottom. It critically doesn't say that you can't have a Yes-or-No-or-Undecidable answer to that question. Introduce an uncertainty factor and the issue falls apart. Thus, you -can- write a Halting Oracle, so long as you're satisfied that sometimes it won't be able to say. For purposes of AI Friendliness - which is certainly a non-trivial property - Rice's Theorem says we can't algorithmically prove that an AI - which is an algorithm - is, or is not, friendly, once we manage to define what friendly even is. We can theoretically, however, prove that AI is friendly, not friendly, or undecidably friendly. For our purposes, "not friendly" and "undecidably friendly" are probably equivalent. For purposes of everything else, nothing at all says that it's impossible to prove whether or not a specific program will halt given a specific input. "But what about the program in Turing's diagonalization proof? Does it halt or not?" The input in that case (the Halting Oracle) can't exist in the first place, as the proof demonstrates. "But what about this neat program I wrote that halts 25% of the time?" What did you use to generate a random number? Not being aware of your hidden inputs isn't the same as not having an input. For a given set of inputs, your algorithm halts 100%, or 0%, of the time. A Halting Oracle that only says "Yes", "No", or "Provably Undecidable" hasn't (to my knowledge and research) been proven to be impossible - and a "Yes", "No", or "Maybe" Halting Oracle is quite trivial, as you can throw all cases you can't figure out an algorithm for into the "Maybe" pile. The proofs do not demonstrate that there are any algorithms which are nondeterministically halting for a given inp
I think I just proved this. If you can prove something is undecidable, it creates a paradox. If you could prove any algorithm will halt or not halt, then you can easily make a halt-detection machine that works in all cases. There are some programs which do not halt, but which it's impossible to prove they will not halt. But not for all cases, see above.
"If you could prove any algorithm will halt or not halt, then you can easily make a halt-detection machine that works in all cases." That is only true if your proofs work from the same one set of axioms. But in reality you can choose different sets of axioms as needed. So it may be possible to prove of each and every algorithm that it will halt or not, but you cannot make a halt-detection machine that works in all cases, because your proofs use different sets of axioms.
What makes you say this?
If I can prove that the problem is undecidable, so can H. H searches through all possible proofs, which must contain that proof too. If a problem is undecidable, that means no proof exists either way. Otherwise it would be decidable, in principle. If no proof exists either way, and H searches through all possible proofs, then it will not halt. It will keep searching forever. Therefore, if you can prove that it is undecidable, then you can prove that H will not halt. And H can prove this too. So H has proved that it will not halt, and returns false. This causes a paradox.
Technically you can't. You can prove it's undecidable as long as your axiom system is consistent. However, it's impossible for a consistent axiom system to prove its own consistency.
Perhaps. If so just make it an axiom. It's silly to use a system that doesn't believe it's consistent.
The problem is that no consistent system can prove it's own consistency. (Of course, an inconsistent system can prove all statements, including both its own consistency and inconsistency.) Consider a system S. You can add the axiom "S is consistent", but now you have a new system that still doesn't know that it's consistent. On the other hand, one can add the axiom "S is consistent even with this axiom added". Your new system is now inconsistent for more or less the reason you used in formulating the above paradox.
I'm not sure that my paradox even requires the proof system to prove it's own consistency. But regardless, even if removing that does resolve the paradox, it's not a very satisfying resolution. Of course a crippled logic can't prove interesting things about Turing machines.
Your argument requires the proof system to prove it's own consistency. As we discussed before, your argument relies on the assumption that the implication If "φ is provable" then "φ" Provable(#φ) → φ is available for all φ. If this were the case, your theory would prove itself consistent. Why? Because you could take the contrapositive If "φ is false" then "φ is not provable" ¬φ → ¬Provable(#φ) and substitute "0=1" for φ. This gives you if "0≠1" then "0=1 is not provable" ¬0=1 → ¬Provable(#(0=1)) The premise "0≠1" holds. Therefore, the consequence "0=1 is not provable" also holds. At this point your theory is asserting its own consistency: everything is provable in an inconsistent theory. You might enjoy reading about the Turing Machine proof of Gödel's first incompleteness theorem, which is closely related to your paradox.
0 is not equal to 1, so it's not inconsistent. I don't understand what you are trying to say with that. It would be really silly for a system not to believe it was consistent. And, if it were true, it would also apply to the mathematicians making such statements. The mathematicians are assuming it's true, and it is obviously true, so I don't see why a proof system should not have it. In any case I don't see how my system requires proving "x is provable implies x". It searches through proofs in a totally unspecified proof system. It then proves the standard halting problem on a copy of itself, and shows that it will never halt. It then returns false, causing a paradox. Are saying that it's impossible to prove the halting problem? So if something is not provable in a theory, that proves it is consistent? I did read your link but I don't understand most of it.
TezlaKoil doesn't include his whole argument here. Basically he is using Gödel's second incompleteness theorem. The theorem proves that a theory sufficiently complex to express arithmetic cannot have a proof of the statement corresponding to "this theory is consistent" without being an inconsistent theory. This doesn't show that arithmetic has a proof of "this theory is inconsistent" either. If it does, then arithmetic is in fact inconsistent. Since we think arithmetic is consistent, we think that the arithmetical formula corresponding to "arithmetic is consistent" is true but undecidable from within arithmetic. It also doesn't imply that the theory composed of arithmetic plus "arithmetic is consistent" is inconsistent, because this theory is more complicated than arithmetic and does not assert its own consistency. Of course we think the more complicated theory is true and consistent as well, but adding that would just lead to yet another theory, and so on. If you try to use mathematical induction to form a theory that includes all such statements, that theory will have an infinite number of postulates and will not be able to be analyzed by a Turing machine.
This part is not quite accurate. Actually, the commonly used theories of arithmetic (and sets) have infinitely many axioms. The actually problem with your approach above is that the theory still won't be able to prove its own consistency since any proof can only use finitely many of the axioms. One can of course add an additional axiom and keep going using transfinite induction, but now one will finally run into a theory that a Turing machine can't analyze.
I would agree that it's not very satisfying, in the sense that there is no satisfying resolution to the paradox of the liar. But logic is actually crippled in reality in that particular way. You cannot assume either that "this is false" is true, or that it is false, without arriving at a contradiction.
If the system is inconsistent, your program will halt on all inputs with output dependent on whether it happens to find a proof of "this program halts" or "this program doesn't halt" first. Well, mathematicians have been proving interesting things about Turing machines for the past century despite these limitations.
From the link: H proves that it can't decide the question one way or the other. The assumption that H can only return TRUE or FALSE is flawed: if a proof exists that something is undecidable, then H would need to be able to return "undecidable". This example seems to verify the halting problem: you came up with an algorithm that tries to decide whether a program halts, and then came up with an input for which the algorithm can't decide one way or another.
H is literally defined as either returning true or false. Or it can run forever, if it can't find a proof. It's possible to create another program which does return "UNDECIDABLE" sometimes. But that is not H. The point is that the behavior of H is paradoxical. We can prove that it can't return true or false without contradiction. But if that's provable, that also creates a contradiction, since H can prove it to. Not only can H not decide, but we can't decide whether or not H will decide. Because we aren't outside the system, and the same logic applies to us.
I did overlook the definition of H. Apologies. More precisely, H will encounter a proof that the question is undecidable. It then runs into the following two if statements: if check_if_proof_proves_x_halts(proof, x, i) if check_if_proof_proves_x_doesnt_halt(proof, x, i) Both return "false", so H moves into the next iteration of the while loop. H will generate undecidability proofs, but as implemented it will merely discard them and continue searching. Since such proofs do not cause H to halt, and since there are no proofs that the program halts or does not, then H will run forever.
If it is undecidable, then that means no proof exists (that H will or will not halt.) If no proof exists, then H will loop forever searching for one. Therefore undecidability implies H will run forever. You've just proved this. Therefore a proof exists that H will run forever (that one), and H will eventually find it. Paradox...
As people have been saying, if H can make this argument it is inconsistent and does not work properly (i.e. it does not return True or False in the correct situations.)
It does not give a counterexample. It specifies a way that you could find a counterexample if there was a halting oracle. But if there was a halting oracle there wouldn't be any counterexample. So what is found is a contradiction.
The standard halting problem proof doesn't specify what the halting oracle is. It just shows how to construct a counter example for any halting oracle. I actually specified a halting oracle; a program which searches through all possible proofs until it finds a proof that it halts or not. Then running it on the counterexample causes it to run forever. Therefore I've proved that it will run forever. The program will eventually find that proof, return false, and halt.
{All possible proofs} has infinitely many elements longer than zero, so your algorithm will (might) run forever on some programs that do halt, so it is not a halting oracle.
If a program halts, it's easy to prove that it halts. Just run it until it halts. The problem is proving that some programs won't halt.
There is no program such that no Turing machine can determine whether it halts or not. But no Turing machine can take every program and determine whether or not each of them halts. It isn't actually clear to me that you a Turing machine in the relevant sense, since there is no context where you would run forever without halting, and there are contexts where you will output inconsistent results. But even if you are, it simply means that there is something undecidable to you -- the examples you find will be about other Turing machines, not yourself. There is nothing impossible about that, because you don't and can't understand your own source code sufficiently well.
The program I specified is impossible to prove will halt. It doesn't matter what Turing machine, or human, is searching for the proof. It can never be found. It can't exist. The paradox is that I can prove that. Which means I can prove the program searching for proofs will never halt. Which I just proved is impossible.
I looked at your specified program. The case there is basically the same as the situation I mentioned, where I say "you are going to think this is false." There is no way for you to have a true opinion about that, but there is a way for other people to have a true opinion about it. In the same way, you haven't proved that no one and nothing can prove that the program will not halt. You simply prove that there is no proof in the particular language and axioms used by your program. When you proved that program will not halt, you were using a different language and axioms. In the same way, you can't get that statement right ("you will think this is false") because it behaves as a Filthy Liar relative to you. But it doesn't behave that way relative to other people, so they can get it right.
No, it's the halting problem all the way down. Not remotely! There's no proof that it halts, and there's no proof that it doesn't halt. It will run until it halts or the universe ends - there is no forever. The key is that there can be programs for which nobody can tell which one they are without actually trying them until they halt or the universe ends.
The halting problem doesn't actually imply this.
"It's the halting problem all the way down", doesn't resolve the paradox, but does express the issue nicely. Do you not agree with the sentence you quoted? That if a proof of haltiness doesn't exist, it will search forever for one? And not halt? Because that trivially follows from the definition of the program. It searches proofs forever, until it finds one.
Nope, it also can't be proven that it'll search forever: it might halt a few billion years (or a few hundred ms) in. There's no period of time of searching after which you can say "it'll continue to run forever",as it might halt while you're saying it, which is embarrassing.
I am referring to the program H which I formally specified in the link I posted. H is a specific program which tries to determine if another program will halt. I then show how to create a counter example for H. And show that if H returns either true or false, it creates a contradiction. Therefore it can't ever return true or false. Therefore I've proved it will run forever. And this is just the standard proof of the halting problem. The weird part is that proving this also creates a contradiction.

Has anyone got opinions on Clifford Geertz? He's supposedly the most-influential American anthropologist. I began reading his famous book, Interpretation of Cultures, and I'm struck by how illogical it is. He has interesting insights into his own perspective, but he's consistently completely unable to comprehend anyone else's perspective. Odd, for someone who says that's the purpose of his own profession. He fails to draw even caricatures or straw men of behaviorism and cognitivism, his main opponents, and just says they're wrong, then tells entertain... (read more)

I read another chapter, on cockfighting in Bali, and I begin to understand him better. When he dismisses cognitivism, he's probably thinking of Levi-Strauss. The introductory chapter which seemed illogical to me was probably not intended to be a logical argument of any kind, but a summary of his views. Geertz seems to have the common non-hard-science mystical view of human thought, as something not amenable to logical analysis, and a view of logic as reductionist. He seems, like I suspect Wittgenstein does, to think that a logical analysis of language means analyzing individual words, and that the information provided by context and by the ways the words are put together is somehow beyond the grasp of logic, and that language and human activity just can't be explained that way.
Yes, but that's because he was doing stuff in the 50s and 60s, when there were a lot of old theories that were ripe for refining and overturning. He made a name for himself by saying a lot of things that seem obvious to us today -- questioning structuralism and functionalism as dominant paradigms was big news in the day. I would say that his work on theory is not worth the trouble it takes to get through it, but I have a low tolerance for bushwhacking through tangled prose. When you get to applied cases, he does make more sense, and can be engaging. I remember Peddlers and Princes being worth reading, although I think he had a good number of page-long paragraphs there too.
I've read a little Geertz, and I think part of what he means is that a culture is people doing stuff, not a body of knowledge or a bunch of patterns which can be abstracted away from the people engaging in a culture..
It's the "not" that I have problems with. First, knowledge is abstract, by definition, so to say "not a body of knowledge which can be abstracted..." is the same as to say "not a body of knowledge". Next, the thing that he says culture is, must be completely implicit in the body of knowledge or the bunch of patterns, or else it would have an independent existence from the members of the culture, and be literally the soul of an ethnic group, made out of invisible culture-stuff, much like the consciousness-stuff that John Searle says our minds our made of. They are different perspectives on the same information. Likewise the behaviorists have a different perspective which also accounts for all of the same information. He doesn't even notice this. He doesn't seem to make any attempt to understand anyone else's perspectives. He just says they're obviously wrong, using so many words and digressions that the reader assumes, coming to the end of a long paragraph, that there must have been an argument in there somewhere. It's the same style of argument George Steiner uses. I wonder if he's unable to understand anyone else's perspectives because of his perspective. He says that anthropology is about trying to understand someone else's perspective, but that cannot consist of understanding what they're thinking (what he calls the cognitivist fallacy). I've read very little of the book so far! It's just... so very unpromising. So much fail in so few pages.
This is a common behavior among hedgehogs. I tend to just ignore it and figure out where this person's model works, and where it's overreaching.
As I understood Geertz, he wasn't talking about invisible culture-stuff, he was talking about tacit culture stuff. The tacit understanding is how people in a culture can make changes which are likely to be satisfactory to other members of the culture, and how members of a culture identify what fits. If my theory is correct, it gets really complicated as a culture changes over long periods of time and as a result of contact with other cultures.

A few nutrition-related questions:

  • Why does Soylent 2.0 have so much fat? They appear to be going for 45% of calories from fat, whereas the typical recommendation is 10%-35%.

  • Why does the Bulletproof stuff include so much saturated fat? It appears that the consensus is that saturated fat significantly increases blood cholesterol and arterial plaque formation - curious why such a deviation here.

Nope -- that's a hotly debated topic. There used to be a consensus that saturated fat is bad, but AFAIK it doesn't exist any more. In particular, the low-carb and paleo approaches to nutrition strongly assert that saturated fat is NOT bad -- that's why "Bulletproof stuff" involves a lot of it.
Thanks. How does one go about learning more about this, preferably while encountering minimal bullshit on the way?
Well, there are basically two ways about it. Way one is deciding that you will trust somebody, so you listen to what he/she/it says and you're done. Advantages: easy. Disadvantages: obvious. Way two is reading through a lot of conflicting materials (mostly papers), filtering out people who are stupid, who have an axe to grind, who have been regurgitating cached thoughts for the last couple of decades, etc. and then trying to construct a mostly coherent picture out of what remains. Advantages: you will understand the field. Disadvantage: hard, expensive in time and effort, involves wading through rivers of bullshit. I am not the trusting kind, so I read the papers :-)
Someone really needs to make an Examine.com for nutrition.

How many of the following do you identify with, strangers?

  Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.

   Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met).

   Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity).

  Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inf
... (read more)

For those who are preoccupied with lists that can actually be read and hold to the overly strict standard that preformatted text shouldn't be used where bulleted lists are intended, here's that list again in more readable form:

  • Is preoccupied with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules to the extent that the major point of the activity is lost.
  • Shows perfectionism that interferes with task completion (e.g., is unable to complete a project because his or her own overly strict standards are not met).
  • Is excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships (not accounted for by obvious economic necessity).
  • Is overconscientious, scrupulous, and inflexible about matters of morality, ethics, or values (not accounted for by cultural or religious identification).
  • Is unable to discard worn-out or worthless objects even when they have no sentimental value.
  • Is reluctant to delegate tasks or to work with others unless they submit to exactly his or her way of doing things.
  • Adopts a miserly spending style toward both self and others; money is viewed as something to be hoarded for future catastrophes.
  • Shows rigidity and stubbornness.

And for those who overconscientiously think that one should cite one's sources, I'll add that these are the DSM-5 criteria for OCD, and that having four of them is supposed to indicate OCD.

I identify with hating having to scroll sideways to read something.

Is sexual relationship between two consenting adult siblings ethically okay and should it be legal? It's an interesting ethical problem because there are so many complicated dimensions and it could go either way. I think generally when it comes to social issues our society seems to head in a right direction, people are becoming more tolerant of people who choose differently and so on, but incest between siblings seems to become maybe more taboo even though there are some rational justifications you could make for it.

Some have made parallels to homosexualit... (read more)

(trigger warning: rape)

How much can we be sure, if this would be made legal, that the consent of the adult siblings would mean the same thing as the consent of two random unrelated people. If someone wants to have sex with their sibling who is not really happy about that idea, how much opportunity would they have to pressure them into "consent", if they merely have to wait until their 18th birthday, as opposed to the opportunity to pressure into "consent" someone who is not a relative?

Even if the person who wants to have sex with their sibling waits with the coitus until the sibling's 18th birthday, they still have plenty of opportunity to "groom" them before they are 18. Imagine siblings with large age difference, where the older sibling uses their mental superiority to "brainwash" their younger sibling, to ruin their other relationships and make them socially isolated, to make them emotionally dependent, so that when the younger sibling becomes 18, they are not in a position to say "no".

Also, many people at 18 are not really ready to be economically independent on their family. Imagine a family with two children, one strongly love... (read more)

In both theory and in practice, it is a problem: the offspring are more likely to have faulty genomes than the offspring of unrelated people. But why are you raising this issue? The practical answer is known, and adequately accounts for the feelings around it.
You could make having offspring illegal. Why must these people have kids? You can get contraception cheaply everywhere nowadays. Does it hurt people more if they can't have kids, than if it were completely illegal? By making relationships between siblings legal, but making offspring illegal you would appreciate people's right to self-determination but still take care of the practical issues in some way. Because it's good ethical practice to try to work out what to do with controversial issues when the answer is not completely clear. There's a reason why that German ethics council thinks it should be legal.
I see no visible controversy around the issue. I don't read German except with more effort than this is worth, although I note that it begins by mentioning a case of a brother and sister having four children together and public consternation over their prison sentence. What reasons does that report give? It is that it considers the German law as it stands an unsatisfactory way to deal with the undesirability of incest, or that society should recognise incestuous relationships as equal to all others? There is a big difference. How does the report propose to handle the negative consequences of inbreeding? Or have you not read any further than ryot.org?
The practical problem is, of course, enforcing this prohibition on procreation. Forced sterilisation is difficult to sell and problematic because the subjects might wish to have children with other people. RISUG might be a solution, once it becomes available. I'm not sure what I think of the fact that everyone is concerned with the genetics of possible offspring in the case of incest, but nobody minds two chronically depressed, highly neurotic people, one of whom has a hereditary autoimmune condition, procreating... (The domain of quantification for the slightly hyperbolic "everyone" and "nobody" here is the general public rather than LW. I suspect that many in this community would, in fact, mind the latter case as well.)
Would you then permit homosexual incest, which doesn't produce children?
I would.
Epistemic status: anally extracted I think it's probably like drunk driving -- most of the times it doesn't result in anything bad, but there's a non-negligible chance of outcomes so bad that the expected value still comes out negative. I haven't given much thought to that, but for some reason your proposed solution of "legal unless you have offspring" sounds more reasonable to my System 1 than the analogous "legal unless you have a crash" in the case of drunk driving. Or maybe a better analogy would be any driving = any sex between siblings, drunk driving = sex between siblings without contraception? Then again, a law against sex between siblings without contraception doesn't sound easy to enforce to me.
Enforcing it then would mean castrating at least one of them when they appeal to the authorities for a marriage certificate or something. Doesn't seem a viable solution.
Or like drunk driving on your own property, where there is no other traffic nor pedestrians, and you are alone in your car (well, ok, you are in the car with another person, but s/he is drunk as well, knows you are drunk, knows the risks of drunk driving and half of the time replaces you behind the wheel). Should it be illegal? (assuming there are no (health) insurance issues if you crash&injure yourself)
Well, in that case you two cannot affect anyone else but yourselves, whereas in the incest case... Hm, does creating a new person count as affecting them? That's probably model-dependent... Hm...
A second problem is that the energy and emotions and time they devote to their incestuous relationship isn't going to a relationship where they might have kids. 5 years ago, I would have thought logically, and said that if they don't want kids and have access to effective contraception then it isn't a problem. But now I would think probabilistically, and say that even if they are 99% sure they don't want kids, they are about 50% likely (assuming standard levels of overconfidance) to change their minds around 30, and now they are really heavily invested in a relationship which cannot lead to healthy kids, and the sister's biological clock is running out of time. So, it's certainly a bad idea, although that doesn't automatically mean it should be made illegal, depending upon whether you believe citizens should have the right to make bad decisions.
The same reasoning would suggest that bisexuals should only get into same-sex relationships. Would you say that as well? I disagree with the idea that they can't have kids. They can adopt. The girl can go to a sperm bank.
They can adopt kids, yes. According to wikipedia, 9.4% of gay couples have kids. I dunno what percentage of hetrosexuals have kids, and I dunno what the average age of gay couples is, but it looks like gay couples are a lot less likely to have kids. This is understandable, since people want to raise kids which are related to them. So yes, my advice would be that bisexuals should only get into hetrosexual relationships, unless they are both ok with sperm banks/adoption. Incidentally, according to some people, the majority of bisexuals are only interested in hetrosexual relationships (and gay sex) although I don't know whether this is because they want kids someday, or because they are hetroromantic.
From what I've heard, the genetic risks have a lot to do with how genetically similar the forebears of the couple are. If all the grandparents are from the same small region, it's a lot riskier than if the grandparents are from different continents.
I don’t understand why the origin of grandparents should matter. To the best of my knowledge, the main problem with incest is recessive alleles. For example, if the grandfather’s genotype is ”aA” (where “a” is a very rare recessive allele) and his children (parents’ generation) mate with each other, then there is a relatively high chance (1/16) that the grandchildren would be of “aa” genotype (which might be extremely deleterious or even lethal). Having another grandparent from a different continent should not change this.
Why wouldn't having grandparents from different continents make rare alleles less likely to be reinforced?
There is some reinforcement, but it’s not very significant. For example, consider an Ashkenazi Tay-Sachs carrier who marries a person from China. If their children mate, the chance that the grandchildren would have Tay-Sachs disease is (1/2)^4=1/16. If instead of a Chinese, this Ashkenazi Tay-Sachs carrier marries another Ashkenazi (who have ~0.03 chance of being a carrier), the chance that the grandchildren would have Tay-Sachs disease is almost the same, ~1/16*1.12. In absence of incest, a grandchild of a Tay-Sachs carrier would have a ~0.03/8 (i.e. ~17 times smaller) chance for getting the disease.
Ashkenazi Jews is too large a category. Try Ashkenazi Jews from a region where Tay Sachs is common for all the grandparents.
I don’t think this is possible. Tay-Sachs allele used to slightly increase evolutionary fitness in heterozygotes (i.e. people who carry just one Tay-Sachs allele). This allowed the allele to increase in frequency until ~3% of Ashkenazis became its carriers. But once the local frequency becomes high enough the negative effects (the risk that a random couple produces children with two Tay-Sachs alleles) balance the positive effects on fitness. Thus in any region it should be impossible for Tay-Sachs to be common for all the grandparents.
I think this is true, but its pretty risky even in the best case.
Supplemental questions that I don't know the answers to: how significant are the effects of inbreeding? Are they often so bad that it would be better for an inbred child to never have existed? How does that compare to having non-inbred children with known high risks of genetic defects? To what extent can the effects be tested for (both before and during pregnancy)? I'd be very surprised if inbreeding was so bad that careful consensual incestuous sex, with the intent of getting an abortion if pregnancy does occur, wasn't worth the risk. Edit: Okay, inbreeding seems to be much worse than I'd anticipated.
According to this: http://dare.uva.nl/cgi/arno/show.cgi?fid=152307 A sibling-incest child looses 28 IQ points. The risks of all genetic disorders rises massively, from p^2/4 to about p/8, so if the prevalence of carriers of a recessive disease (p) is 1%, then the disease probability would rise by a factor of 50.
That's almost two standard deviations and looks iffy to me. Yes, I followed the link, the main study resulting in this number is behind the paywall, but I suspect that the sample wasn't very representative. Basically, for a sub-population with a recessive trait that leads to mental retardation the outcomes are going to be massively different from the outcomes for a sub-population without such a recessive trait.

Available the usual places: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8gv0el0anfyymed/1971-seemanova.pdf / http://moscow.sci-hub.bz/092ee3d082e9cffd04b7064c36ba808a/10.1159%40000152391.pdf (Personally, I'm impressed she managed to get that big a sample in just Czechoslovakia. Creepy. Also, note that's only one of the studies being meta-analyzed.)

It's very clear that inbreeding is really bad: to give some examples, it drives species extinct within generations, its effects are long-term and underestimated, inbreeding can result in 20+ IQ points loss in other populations such as in India and of course we all know about the Habsburgs (which was so extreme that "Charles II was moderately more inbred than the average among the offspring from brother-sister matings").

a sub-population without such a recessive trait.

What makes you think there are any human populations none of whose recessive and mutation loads affect cognition?

Her sample covers 37 years (1933-1970) and, looking at the sources, she utilized official reports including maternity homes, district courts, etc. so the sample is all Czechoslovakia had officially. I don't think this. Intelligence is strongly polygenic, as far as I know, so for everyone it's a mix of something good and something bad. But that gene mix is uneven in populations, so some people (low-IQ) get more bad and less good genes, while some people (high-IQ) get more good and less bad. The thing is, I would expect incest to strongly correlate with very low IQ (your basic drives are still there, but social norms are... less binding). Besides, it's easier for smarter people to not be caught. So if you select a population which engages in incest (and is detected), you are co-selecting for low IQ and for a larger proportion of bad-for-IQ genes. And the larger that proportion, the worse are the chances (growing superlinearly, too) for the child to have normal IQ. Do note that in the study sample only 4 females and 2 males among parents attended secondary school, the rest didn't have any education beyond elementary school (out of 141 mothers and 138 fathers). P.S. Thanks for the link to the study.
Poor countries are like that. The people in the Indian studies and elsewhere won't be too highly educated either. Shouldn't affect within-population comparisons... Although since prevalence of cousin-marriage differs drastically from country to country, the inbreeding effect could be driving a nontrivial amount of between-population differences in intelligence. (And of course, it's not like intelligence is unrelated to national wealth either.)
This is Europe, though, and Communist governments tend to be big on education. Within which population? The control group involves one parent "from the outside", so regression to the mean kicks in and the chance of the recessives finding a pair falls dramatically. I am not arguing that incest has no significant consequences. I am arguing that if you take children of incestuous unions where both parents have reasonable IQ (say, >85), the mean IQ of children would NOT drop by 28 points.
It is one of the poorest parts of Europe, and Communist governments tended to be big on a lot of things they couldn't deliver. If you're comparing within an Indian population, then the much higher rates of inbreeding aren't the confound; all you have is the remaining selection effect, and that's must be small because anything else would drastically contradict the animal and other breeding experiments, and the estimates from genomic methods. It would probably drop by more like 25 points, looking at the weighted averages. (For the surviving children, that is.)
Communist governments delivered on that one. Take a look here, specifically pages 21 and 23. The secondary education in Eastern Europe was more prevalent than in Mediterranean countries and Great Britain + Ireland (but less than in Nordic countries and Central Europe). And Czechoslovakia was one of the better Eastern European countries. I went and looked at the Jammu & Kashmir study and it is more convincing than the Czechoslovak study. Hm. It seems my scepticism about the 20+ IQ points drop was unfounded, changing my mind... :-) But why did my intuition didn't like the large magnitude of IQ drop? I think because it implies that intelligence is very fragile and very easy to genetically screw up. But if the IQ drop is valid, then intelligence is very fragile. Hmm...
There are two separate questions here. One is: for a given pair of closely related people who very much want to have sex with one another, is doing so (carefully) worth the risk? The other is: should we adjust our societal norms to make things easier for people in that situation? It seems quite plausible to me that the answers might be "yes, sure" and "heck no", respectively because, as you say, if lots of siblings or other closely related people have sex then some of them will have children. Slightly-parallel question: if someone is addicted to heroin and can procure some, should they take it? The answer might be yes, at least some of the time, but we probably still want norms that discourage people from getting addicted in the first place. (I wonder whether laws and other norms against incest provide some protection against abuse by parents and elder siblings. That shouldn't be necessary -- they should be protected by laws against abuse and against sex with people almost certainly too young for properly informed consent -- but maybe there's some extra deterrent effect.)
However, cousin marriages might typically be in cultures which accept or promote cousin marriages. This might not work out the same way for pairings from non-cousin marriage cultures.
I made comments to a similar effect in a recent OT http://lesswrong.com/lw/mgr/open_thread_jul_13_jul_19_2015/ckh8 :)
To be clear, in my heart I feel that I'm against this because for example if people in our family got together it would probably destroy our family. That's what makes it so interesting because it goes so much against my feelings, but it's still something that could be right in principle.
I wouldn't go so far as saying it is "right" but certainly "harmless" in principle, once you remove procreation from the equation.
That's about your family's attitudes, rather than about anything intrinsic to the act. I would be surprised and possibly grossed out if this happened in my own family, but that would be the moral equivalent of a vistigial limb,* something to get past. *I was going to say appendix, but the appendix does actually have a function).

Just because I thought it was funny (an ad at a local restaurant)


I have developed a learned helplessness and external locus of control about gardening and personal food production. Since I care about close quality monitoring, I will be remediating this and learning to garden properly. Any guides to edible gardening for rationalists?

Grow what you will actually eat, not what you wish you would eat but won't actually eat. Learned this the hard way. As such I now primarily grow tomatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, malibar spinach, and strawberries despite being good at producing other things that would go to waste with some regularity. (Still working on winter / fall gardening. Gonna try turnips and Fava beans.)

I would add to that that your first year or so, it is not bad to plant something easy that will overproduce. In the long run you aren't going to want much zucchini, but your first year it is motivating to have something come up that is edible, once the birds have eaten your berries, the insects have devastated your lettuce, and your tomatoes have mysteriously decided not to give you anything. I would have given up early on if I didn't have something that produced a reasonable amount the first year. And you can often give away excess fresh vegetables, gaining some small amount of social capital.

(OTOH, if you need to lose weight, eating what you grow rather than buying something you might like a little better should help. At least it pushed me from 44 to 40 kg (I am 157 cm high).) ETA: there were other reasons, too, but I think this was what did it.
How to garden is site-specific. It will be different in different microclimates. I live in Canada, and once I read a gardening book from the UK and I had to laugh at the part where it said what I could plant in January. In Vancouver, maybe, but in the rest of Canada, no. So...find books suited to your climate or maybe talk to people at a local garden club or nursery. Or talk to your neighbours, since their yards are most similar to yours, and so they may have experience at what works well in that type of soil and climate.

Does anyone make productivity-time goals too? I sometimes say to myself, 30 seconds till you get to the bathroom, and it'll keep me focussed on that goal.


I just tried this 'battleground god' thing and it told me:

'It is strange to say that God is a logical impossibility, but you don’t know whether God exists. If God is a logical impossibility, then surely She can’t exist, and so you know that She doesn’t exist.'

I don't get it. Why can't I be unsure about the truth value of something just because it's a logical impossibility? My understanding of logic isn't exhaustive.

BattleGround God is bad arguing. It seems to have been created and tested by one person who had strong ideas about the type of person that was going to take it. The 'contradictory statements' that it identifies are 1. not actually contradictory, but 2. not presented in conjunction to each other, meaning that you have to take their re-wording of previous statements as consistent. They are not constant -- they replace wording indicating a broad idea with wording requiring a narrow (and specifically Judaic/Christian/Islamic) definition in order to 'catch you out'. Whacking through all the random things they think that you might believe (mostly wisely chosen if you are taking an exit poll at a church, but not so good on a philosophy site) makes it very boring to find their errors... But errors there are. Whoever wrote it was much more interested in catching out theists with murky ideas of rhetoric and not particularly interested in defining beliefs and testing for contradictions. This person would not last 5 minutes in a discussion with a real human. This is not a good model of how to talk to theists, nor will any non-rational theist bother to play this game with any intent of taking its conclusions as valid. Nor should they. It was so painful!
I just took that. and I answered the first question that way because I believe there are some inner convictions it is justified to base one's beliefs on (for instance, the belief that there is an external world and that I am not a brain in a vat), but I do not believe this is true for all inner convictions. So that is not actually a contradiction. I didn't get any other "contradictions" and I suspect that it's because I took everything very literally there.
If you're using logic to determine truth values, then a logical impossibility is false. The reason is that if something is logically impossible, then its existence would create a contradiction and so violate the Law of Noncontradiction.
Your logic sounds consistent. Thanks, I'm happy to accept the utility of the law of non-contradiction and therefore don't believe in the logical impossibility of god anymore, not the logical impossibility of anything I conceive.
I'm not certain where the problem lies, but I suspect that you may be misunderstanding the term "logical impossibility". It would not be used to indicate that you have come up with an argument that shows that something is impossible. Instead it would be used to indicate that something is actually impossible in any consistent universe. To clarify, if I make the argument that 1. Socrates is a man, and 2. all men are mortal, that does not make it logically impossible for Socrates to live forever; it just means that I can show logically that Socrates won't die as long as these statements hold. Logically impossible things are generally things like a square circle (exactly 4 right angles and exactly 0 angles in the same 2d shape); if they exist, it is because you misunderstand the terms being used in some way; if someone claims that this qualifies as a square circle, they have misunderstood what I am trying to communicate. Likewise, people may say that an entity cannot be perfectly good and have allowed the holocaust; this might qualify god as a logical impossibility -- if we accept this judgement of morality, if we believe that god is perfectly good, and if we believe that the holocaust happened. You could perhaps come up with a scenario in which God, being perfectly good, absolutely needed to implant memories of the holocaust into each of our memories.... or you could simply define god as an evil being. so I would say that "logical impossibility" is a bit strong.
Given this premise, I now agree that I misunderstood >'the term "logical impossibility".' Though, I unfortunately don't understand what it does mean. I'll look it up now and see if that further clarifies. So from the Wikipedia page, I now understand stand it as something whereby the components of the logical equation in some way denote that the other components are incompatible with it, perhaps they denote some character of the other components at a level of analysis beyond one particular level of characterisation or grouping. However, if it also comes down to what a particular person can conceive as possibility, doesn't that come down to a particular person's ability to visualise, imagine or recombine concepts into a coherent whole - which almost certainly various between those more cognitively flexible and those who aren't? In the Wikipedia example, understand why the sky is blue, not just at the physical level but psychological level of description, helps me imagine why someone might claim something apparently absurd like "the sky isn't a sky". btw,w hen I googled for logical impossibility to get the Wikipage it suggested this stack exchange question
I think I see the problem. Whenever any philosopher says that something is logically impossible, they are specifically and openly aware that this is only conditionally true. For example, a square circle is only clearly a logical impossibility if the words square and circle mean the same thing every time I think them, including in the time period that I move from 'square' to 'circle'; if the ideas of 'square' and 'circle' actually do have a referent, and I am not just deluded into feeling a clear sense of meaning when I think those words, (and including all defining terms [such as 'right angle']); if I am correct in believing that two non-identical things are necessarily not one thing; if I am correct in believing language can refer to things other than semantic relationships; and many other fun things, including the big one: the assumption that I exist and am thinking. However, once you have gotten everyone on the same page, and we all admit that we cannot prove that we exist, we start talking about highly conditional realities, such as those in which BattleGround God is more than a deluded memory, in which the words on the LessWrong are entered by other people, realities in which computers and circles and 'good' actually exist in some meaningful sense... ...and we don't all have the same set of conditionally accepted realities. Nor do we need to in order to make most arguments intelligible to both parties. As a matter of course, most of the things we talk about are propositioned on the existence of the external world as reported by our senses and the media. If we deviate from this, we specify this in some way. And that explains logical impossibility... but then I realized that I hadn't read your original question carefully enough. BG has conflated "belief that God is a logical impossibility" and "you know that She doesn’t exist." The second claim should be "you believe that She doesn’t exist." BG tried too hard, and it fails. Next time, use a Real Philosopher(T
How can P(x doesn't exist) < P(x is logically impossible)? That's... well, logically impossible.
If I've understand correct, you're saying that the probability that x doesn't exist, can't less than the probabiltiy that x is logically impossible. The reason that it can be true, is because I'm not smart enough to interpret that complicated proposition whether it's in symbolic form or even after I've managed to translate it into words. Therefore, P(x doesn't exist) may very well be < P(x is logically impossible), I have no idea.
It is definitely true that this could be someone's subjective probability, if he he doesn't understand the statement. But if you do understand it, a thing which is logically impossible doesn't exist, so the probability that a thing doesn't exist will be equal to or higher than the probability that it is logically impossible.
I feel like I might understand now. Can I represent your points as follows: * all instances of things which are logically impossible also don't exist * therefore, there are more things which don't exist than those that are logically impossible Assuming statement 1 is correct, without accepting a further premise I don't feel compelled to accept the second premise. It sounds like things which are logically impossible may in fact be equivelant to things which don't exist, and vice-versa. And that sounds intuitively compelling. If something was logically possible, it would happen. If it is wasn't possible, it's not going to happen. Or, the agent's modelling of the world is wrong. Importantly, I don't accept premise 1, as I've indicated in another comment reply (something about how I find I'm wrong about the apparent impossibility of something, or possibility of something.)
A purple dog with octopus arms is logically possible, but does not exist.
I said "so the probability that a thing doesn't exist will be equal to or higher than etc." exactly because the probability would be equal if non-existence and logical impossibility turned out to be equivalent. If you don't agree that no logically impossible thing exists, then of course you might disagree with this probability assignment.
Well, the conclusion should read not "more things" but "at least as many". Things might accidentally not exist. I feel the fact that you reject premise 1 just means that you don't really grasp the concept of impossibility, logical or otherwise... Or you have a different concept of existence. The reason why I used a semi-formal notation was to suggest that if you formalise it all, you can actually prove "P(x doesn't exist) ≥ P(x is impossible)" as a tautology. (Ignoring the issue that with specifically logical impossibility, you get into a bit of trouble with probability assignments to tautologies.)
Seems undecidable, circa Godel bla bla bla.
Uhm, what? Why? Bla bla bla indeed. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) It's not actually very relevant. If you don't believe that logical (or, for that matter, any other sort of) impossibility implies non-existence, then you are understanding either "logical impossibility" or "non-existence" in a way different from just about everybody else. So if there is any point to this discussion, it should be to elucide how you understand them.
Thanks for making that clear to me. I don't like the idea of having inconstent terminology usage to everyone else, so in that case I'm at deep fault. A few minutes (hours?) ago I had a moment of clarity and I'm pretty sure I'm psychotic right now. I caught myself out in the delusion I've been having for a couple of days, which I have had in the past for unfortunately far longer, that society and economies are going to collapse and we're going to be forced to farm or raid people and because I'm passive and shit at gardening I'll die a horrible death. Which, I should have good reason to believe is absurd because economic collapses are extremely rare, highly unlikely in developed countries like ours, there are measures in place to intervene in food security crises, so on and so forthe. The point is, this is consistent my prolific shit posting over the last half-day which I will probably go back and perhaps get rid of the ones without comments. Meanwhile, this thread is probably going to be extremely interesting to me when I recover from this because it formalises how it captures, to some extent how I've been relating to the world. To some extent I miss that if I had managed to reply to your comment further into this state it might have been very interesting. On the other hand, perhaps if not for it, I wouldn't have recognised that this indeed is a problem right now and my delusion isn't just a single odd piece of psychosis admist normal thinking otherwise. Ok I better get off this thing and figure out to get some help so my assignments can still be submitted in time...I've lost so much karma in the last half day haha. Unless this is some kind of self-doubt, or worry/anxiety thing and I'm just making a feel of myself to refuse actually updating my beliefs faced with compelling reason. I don't know, I feel very odd. I'll probably update this at some point. Unless something goes very wrong...a little while ago I was thinking of retiring this account and also how interest
If you already know that square circles cannot exist, it follows that in fact they do not exist; nothing impossible happens, so a proposition like "I saw a square circle" automatically gets a truth value = 0 without having to bother examining it.
thats confirmation bias
And how do we compensate for confirmation bias? "Wait, I must not yet discard the chance I'm wrong, because for all I know, square circles can—" No, they can't. Ergo, they don't.
Sorry I don't follow. Please use baby steps for me.
The purpose of knowing about confirmation bias is to always keep in mind that you tend to overly favor your own preferred hypothesis, so you must adopt a detached perspective and try to consider all alternative explanations. But in this case we are dealing with the rules of logic. Unless you're a follower of one of the many paraconsistent schools, there are no alternative explanations. The rules just work. It's not confirmation bias to favor an explanation based on the rules of logic. Denying square circles a priori is not the same as denying black swans a priori: swans are real things in the real universe, and as such can have limitless variations. Swans that fall outside of their former definition force us to update the definition. A black swan is not a logical impossibility. Circles, on the other hand, are abstractions in our heads, and only have one form. Circles that fall outside of their definition are just not circles. Going back to your original example: IF God is a logical impossibility, no instantiation of a God in the real universe will occur, because, again, nothing impossible happens. You don't need to bother examining the truth value of something that in principle can't occur, for the same reason geometrists don't go on field trips in search for square circles. You can trust logic; it simply won't happen.
I disagree. You're implying that square circles are platonic concepts that aren't empirically verifiable. I would argue that they entirely are, just the task would be too difficult to be worth anyone's while. Just because something is in someone else's field of perception, doesn't make it any less real if it's a particular hypothesised shape, or a particular hypothesised colour. I could simply ask someone if they've seen a square circle and if everyone says no, can comfortably believe there aren't any till I perhaps see one, just as if I ask about black swans and if everyone says no, comfortable b eleive they don't exist unless I see one. This is the assumption made in your last paragraph and I completely disagree. I've frequently found that things I thought were impossible happened. That kind of dogmatic certainty sounds awefully dangerous. While thinking about logic in that kind of self-consistent, but externally inconsistent sense seems to be absurd. One can describe a particular mythology that might make sense in a self-consistent way, but when related to other systems of belief isn't coherent.
There is a difference between things that are impossible per se and things we think are impossible. Logical impossibilities are impossible regardless of anyone's opinion. Good luck with that square circle survey.
Square circles exist in the Manhattan metric.
It is not really interesting that a circle can be X if you first change the definition of circle.
It's not arbitrary redefinition, though. like the old joke about "calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one"; it's actually a consistent geometry.
Yes, any real-world circle is imperfect and deviates from being a circle in the mathematical sense. Something that's square deviates a lot from the circle in the mathematical sense and is thus no real circle.
Maybe it's because I'm not bayesian enough: If I accepted that: Then I may not hold my current attitude. But I don't see reason to believe those premises.
While I don't agree with the way they phrased their explanation, it's akin to saying "I'm not sure if 2 + 2 = 4 is true, but I am sure it can't equal anything else." Then falling back to "but there could be oddities in the foundation of mathematics that I'm not aware of" when pressed on the inconsistency. If you claim that your understanding of logic isn't exhaustive, I don't see how you can also claim that X is logically impossible. ("I'm not a car expert but there is no possible way the problem is with the engine")
Thanks for that analogy, that gives me a new way to think about it. I believe I can agree with the 2 + 2 = 4 theorem because I already agree with agreement in the summation of the components represented. To illustrate: If I put up 2 figures, then another 2 fingers, I can reliable get consensus from a survey of people and my own intuition/memory that it represents 4 fingers, and correspondingly the number 4. Meanwhile, I don't have any kind of clear idea of what people are on about when they say god, so doing any logical operation from there is unclear. The reason that understanding the component is important to doing an operation is that it may have an implicit modifier that affects the logical operation in and of itself. For instance: 2 + (-2) = 4 the (-2), is not the same as 2, it's a different component which may sometimes appear to be a 2, but getting consensus about it from people, or figuring out what to do with your fingers when you read it, might confuse people into giving an answer that is less consistent. It appears that I'm using a consensus theory of truth. I guess that's neccersary for any kind of discussion with more than one participant anyhow.
It makes more sense to think in terms of probabilities here, than "is or isn't". To what probability would you give god being a logical impossibility?
Thanks, that's an interesting point, but I don't think it can get a probability of being true or false because that would imply that the underlying concept can somehow be demonstrated true or false. If it can be demonstrated true or false, then it's logical impossibility would be 0%, because anything that is testable and has yet to be tested has a possibility of being true or false, however small that may be, or else it's self-evident (100%). Else, it cannot be demonstrated true or false, in which case the logical impossibility is 100%.
But the whole point of the original post was that you had logical uncertainty. That's why in Bayesian reasoning you can't have probabilites of 0 and 1 - to allow for the possibility, however small, of updating. See also: How to convince me that 2+2 =3
Thanks, I don't really understand where I was coming from before. Maybe my new found understanding of the terminology around uncertainty has finally updated my intuitions :)

Not sure if this is obvious of just wrong, but isn't it possible (even likely?) that there is no way of representing a complex mind that is sufficiently useful enough to allow an AI to usefully modify itself. For instance, if you gave me complete access to my source code, I don't think I could use it to achieve any goals as such code would be billions of lines long. Presumably there is a logical limit on how far one can usefully compress ones own mind to reason about it, and it seams reasonably likely that such compression will be too limited to allow a singularity.

The ability to reason about large amounts of code seems to be more a memory and computation speed problem, than a logic problem. Computers already seem to be better than humans on these counts, so it seems like they may be better at understanding large pieces of code, once we have the whole "understanding" thing solved.
There's certainly ways you can usefully modify yourself. For example, giving yourself a heads-up display. However, I'm not sure how much it would end up increasing your intelligence. You could get runaway super-intelligence if every improvement increases the best mind current!you can make by at least that much, but if it increases by less than that, it won't run away.

I'll ask again: where are the videos from the various EA Global events?

If stuff hasn't been recorded or even if stuff just hasn't been uploaded yet, I feel like the EA community is probably missing out on a fair amount of publicity and views and attention by not having their relevant content out and viewable promptly, while it's all still fresh. This is especially true since I hear some big names went to some of these events.

I am assuming effective altruists want their point of view to spread and become more popular. It seems to me that they are not bein... (read more)

http://www.eaglobal.org/livestream This is what I know of. I don't know if they needed to post-edit videos; but if they did - that takes time.
Wonderful, thanks.
unfortunately it appears to be one video...
Trying to find the Oxford livestream, I happened across the Saturday Afternoon video. ...And, now it's private.

I've read that genes explain about 50% of the intelligence. Does anyone know: Did these studies regard the fact that good genes for intelligence presuppose good genes of the parents and they determine the environment in which a child grows up too, so from that point of view genetics might explain more than 50% of intelligence.

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It's probably a safe assumption that there exists some number of people dedicating their careers to the study of intelligence who are able to consider potential heritability confounders you can think up in five minutes.
My question was actually rather meant as a reference request (though, admittedly poorly phrased [but also poorly interpreted]).

Is there any explanation, term, or research into the phenomenon of shifting mental health diagnoses? Like getting diagnosis retracted, remissions, then appearance of symptoms suggesting something else, and so forthe? Perhaps there is an explanation for how or why mental health conditions might transform into one another?


which countries and places in the world in general is it unsafe to get sick in?

I'm concerned about the health systems in other countries but like the idea of traveling.

How are transfers between health systems arranged and when is it a good idea?

You can buy traveler's health insurance; it is not hard to find policies that will transport you to the nearest safe hospital, by airlift if necessary, and back to your home country if needed.
I disagree. I can only see health insurance domestically and travel insurance for sale separately.
Disclaimer I am not recommending this service specifically, it was just the first result when I Googled I was talking about things like this -- this one is only for American citizens, but I would be surprised if you couldn't find an equivalent service in most developed nations.

Efficient charity: you don't need to be an altruist to benefit from contributing to charity

Effective altruism rests on two philosophical ideas: altruism and utilitarianism.

In my opinion, even if you're not an altruist, you might still want to use statistics to learn about charity.

Some people believe that they have an ethical obligation to cause a net 0 suffering. Others might believe they have an ethical obligation to cause only an average amount of suffering. In these causes, in order to reduce suffering to an acceptable level, efficient charity might be ... (read more)


Valproate is the most underated cognitive enhancer. Though it's probably bad for your sperm. It's like borrowing your future children's intelligence.

Personal experience that it is useful or just from the indirectly linked papers? Also, note that it may potentiallly insta-fuck your liver.
From this description alone, it sounds like a good idea if you don't plan on having kids.
Hahaha. You're quite right. Can you help me explain that to my wife?
I've heard people say that it makes them sluggish and dumb - is this first hand experience you're talking about?
Although I do have first hand experience, that was to remedy specific other issues so I wasn't generalising about that. My recommendation comes from the little positive cognitive enhancing effects I've read about, and a lack of any reports to the contrary.
But it is. See the long list at page 284. See also the section about data sources on page 331. The document points to World Development Indicators 2013 for more detailed references and data which is are more accessible by being placed after each corresponding section,

I feel guilty that I'm not using facebook, something that might be pretty exclusive to our generations, where the next version may be less amenable to such gaming, to use it to do something BIG - like start the next arab spring, or push products to sell, or become a politician and advertise on it using my youthful savvy. Can anybody pass on some advice?

This whole subthread stinks of Dunning-Kruger. Youthful savvy? Cultish following? Guilt about not using Facebook? Putting internet sales on par with a revolutionary movement spanning several countries? That doesn't sound like you know what you're talking about. I don't know exactly who you're supposed to persuade, but your track record so far on LessWrong shows that you barely manage to break even with your karma, and that you lack the level of self-awareness of a socially well-adapted person. Whoever you successfully persuade would have to be even more oblivious than you, which is saying something. Given what you said here you'd use Facebook for, I for one am glad neither I nor you are using it. I don't mean for this to be a pointless ad hominem attack; the reason I'm responding this way is for you to take this as a prompter that you need to get out of your own head and think more clearly about matters involving yourself, or how you come off as. Because the way you think about this whole business is a huge red flag. The fact that self-promoters, salesmen, and slacktivists on FB tend to piss off people more than anything else, and the fact that youth is basically never an indicator of "savvy" are two things that should be obvious to everyone who has even a modicum of experience with the internet or life in general. ... Just out of curiosity, how old are you?
In the area of computers, particularly things related to computers that appeared relatively recently and which youths are more inclined to use, it often is such an indicator.
Hence the qualifier "basically". I'm aware of a few exceptions related to products marketed to the 18-25 (or even 18-35) age range.
That might have been true 20 years ago, but not any more.
I'm pretty sure that new computer-related things continued to be produced in the past 20 years and that older people are less likely to use them.
You're making a strawman. Internet mobilisers for the Arab Spring weren't all George Washingtons. There are countless others who helped in whatever small way they could that was neither trivial nor grandiose at an individual level, as you're implying with DK. I post on LessWrong that which I won't post elsewhere. It's not that I'm exceptionally deviant, it's more that I can compartmentalise all that odd thinking in one place, here, as a testing ground. That which makes it into the realm of the world I wholeheartedly accept, and those that make it to bank of things I'll signal is far more restrictive and mainstream. It doesn't seem ad hominem at all. It's an insightful analysis which I appreciate. Well the whole point of the thread is to do that. That's why I posted it. I don't agree with that generalisation. I suspect you're just projecting your own feelings about those categories of people. Feel free to update me with a more generalisable fact that you can back up with evidence I'll have reason to believe is transportable to my facebook audience, while noting how you found that evidence (i.e. don't search for 'facebook sales people piss people of', search for 'facebook sales peoples attitudes'. See before you weren't ad hominin, but I suspect now you're going to stereotype, discriminate or vilify me based on my answer or whatever you expect it to be. How would you like it if I asked you at the end of highly critical post:
Why do you think you would be so good at influencing people on Facebook?
Limited evidence suggests that people are more interested, almost cultish towards me in places that I am active (e.g. secret groups), limited periods when I've had a facebook wall. However, this may just be an artifact of people having limited opportunities to interact with me, and the secret groups being of special interests (e.g. people I work with, etc, who I've first gained traction with IRL already). Thank you for getting me to think about this.
Do you already have a track record of getting sizable groups of strangers doing things they wouldn't otherwise have done by influencing them on some other social media? Then it might be worth looking into how to game facebook. If you don't, then the first question is if you should try to get into the social media influence game to begin with. How many people are trying to do it compared to people who have any traction with a number of followers, and what sets the successful people apart? If most people who don't bounce off right away are barely hanging by instead of becoming big and influential, how is life for them? How much is success driven by stuff like outrage clickbait, unrelenting smear jobs at whoever your opponent is, raising twitter lynch mobs and the like, and how comfortable would you be operating in an environment where those might be standard operating procedure?
I don't at all. In fact, track evidence for any kind of online organising would suggest I'm worse than avergae. However, I am very effective at mobilising people in real life and have a great track record for that. I can often sense the mood of a place and play off that. But, I'm not confident that I can accurately predict it online and do things. Thank you for getting me to answer this. If I had just thought of the above answer, I wouldn't have realised by that second point, my efficacy of mobilising people in real life, is non-transfferable to my online-mobilising, based on past evidence. And, therefore, my uncertainty about this topic, lending to the question, is now resolved. Thank you.
So, remind me, how did that turn out?