Open Thread: September 2011

by Pavitra1 min read3rd Sep 2011447 comments

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[-][anonymous]9y 31

Wondering vaguely if I'm the only person here who has attempted to sign up for cryonics coverage and been summarily rejected for a basic life insurance plan (I'm transgendered, which automatically makes it very difficult, and have a history of depression, which apparently makes it impossible to get insurance according to the broker I spoke with).

I see a lot of people make arguments (some of them suggesting a hidden true rejection) about why they don't want it, or why it would be bad. I see a lot of people here make arguments for its widespread adoption, and befuddlement at its rejection (the "Life sucks, but at least you die" post) and the difficulties this poses for spreading the message. And I see a few people argue (somewhat mendaciously in my opinion) for its exclusivity or scarcity, arguing that it's otherwise of little to no value if just anyone can get signed up.

What I don't see is a lot of people who'd like to and can't, particularly for reasons of discrimination. For me, my biggest rejection for a long time was the perception that it was just out of reach of anyone who wasn't very wealthy, and once I learned otherwise, that obstacle dissipated. Now I'm kind of ... (read more)

I hope you don't mind, I've copied your message to the New Cryonet mailing list. This is an important issue for the cryonics community to discuss. I think there needs to be a system in place for collecting donations and/or interest to pay for equal access for those who can't get life insurance. There are a couple of cases I'm aware of where the community raised enough donations to cover uninsurable individuals for CI suspensions.

3[anonymous]9yI don't mind. While my personal case is obviously important to me (it is my life after all), it's important to me in a more general sense -- a lot of people are talking on this site about various ways to fix the world or make it better, yet they're often not members of the groups who've had to pay the costs (through exploitation, marginalization or just by being subject to some society-wide bias against them) to get it to where it is now.
7handoflixue9yI'm both transgendered and diagnosed with depression, and I've had good luck getting insured via Rudi Hoffman [http://www.rudihoffman.com/cryonics.html]. I don't recall what the name of the insurance company was, and I haven't heard the final OK since the medical examination, but I don't foresee any difficulties. I was warned they'll most likely put me down on male rates (feh) despite being legally female, but I can deal with that even if I don't like it.
3[anonymous]9ySame broker. Did you mention the depression to him explicitly?
4handoflixue9yYes. I'm not taking any medication for it, which might have affected it.
3[anonymous]9yThat question never came up in my conversation with him, oddly. So I'm left wondering what the decisive difference is. shrug
1Dennis9yIf you don't mind me asking - how old are you and how much money do you typically save a year?
5[anonymous]9yBad assumption, but I'll answer. I am 28. long-term unemployed, cannot get a bank account due to issues years ago, living on disability payments and now with support of my domestic partner (which is the main reason my situation isn't actually desperate any longer). We have to keep our finances pretty separate or my income (~7k a year, wholly inadequate to live on by myself anyplace where I could actually do so) goes away. I keep a budget, I'm pragmatic and savvy enough to make sure our separate finances on paper don't unduly restrict us from living our lives as necessary, but I can't remember the last time I made it to the end of the month with money left over from my benefits check. Sometimes if I'm having a very good month, I'll not need to use my food stamps balance for that cycle, meaning it's there when I need extra later.
[-][anonymous]9y 11

And to stave off questions about how I could afford cryonics on this level of income: Life insurance can fall within a nice little window of 50 dollars or less, which could plausibly be taken out of my leisure and clothing budgets (it doesn't consume all of them, but those are the only places in the budget with much wiggle room). Maintaining a membership with the Cryonics institute that depends on a beneficiary payout of that insurance is something like 120 dollars a year - even I can find a way to set that aside.

0[anonymous]9yAre you saying you disagree with the probability estimates of insurance companies regarding the of death of transgendered people with a history of depression for a given year (or did you mean something else)? I'm willing to consider any arguments you have for that proposition, but, as far as I know, the SPRs used by insurance companies are the gold standard of instrumental rationality, so there is a strong presumption that they are (more) correct and that you (or any human expert for that matter) are (more) wrong.
[-][anonymous]9y 13

I think they don't have any deep understanding of it at all -- the statistics tell the story the insurance adjusters need to decide on an investment (well, sort of -- there actually is no really good data about our long-term heatlh outcomes apart from our rates of violent murder, and it's hard to tell what would even constitute a reasonable null hypothesis to default to when so many complicated variables are churned up by the medical procedures we often seek), but that decision and those statistics are not truly value-neuitral.

Show me a trans person who hasn't dealt with depression. I'm sure they exist, but it does not appear to be common. Depression is such a common symptom for us because we're a mostly-despised minority in the wider world, and just being coerced into our birth-assigned gender roles is often painful and stressful for us (and it only gets worse as we grow up).

Transgendered people in the US face one-in-eight to one-in-twelve murder rates depending on race and geographic location [edit: this claim is unsourced and should be considered retracted; investigation recorded further downthread attempts to pin down the rate more precisely-Jandila]; we're also something like... (read more)

Transgendered people in the US face one-in-eight to one-in-twelve murder rates depending on race and geographic location;

I've seen this claim before but I've never seen it attached to a reliable source. Do you have a citation for it? The HCR estimates that there are about 15-30 murders of transgendered people each year. If we underestimate the percentage of the American population that is trans using the HCR's data and use the lower bound estimate that 1 in every 3000 people are transgendered (here I'm using the cited Conway study that says lower bound of 1 in 2500 and underestimating a bit more both to make the math easier and to make sure we're very definitely not overcounting, note that Conway's upper bound is in 1 in 500) then we get with a US population of around three hundred million, a total of about 100,000 trans people in the US. Now if we assume that all those trans murders are evenly distributed (which seems to be really unlikely), we get assuming that they have around 60 years of time to get murdered, with a 30/100,000 chance each year, we get a chance of 1-(1-(30/100,000))^60 chance of getting murdered in their lifetimes (60 comes from assuming that they know they ... (read more)

7[anonymous]9yYou know, I can't find a good source for it now, and it appears to be an apocryphal claim. Wouldn't be the first time I've picked up an oft-quoted but exaggerated statistic about this issue. I'm a bit of a newb, but I'll try to strikethrough that claim. ETA: The Help guide doesn't list that particular markup. Someone throw me a bone? A look at Carsten Balzer's 2009 study claims that a recent attempt to monitor the rate of reported murders worldwide (their criteria were basically "can be accessed by a newspaper website or some other online source during a google search, after filtering for duplicates") gave a rate of about one reported murder every three days. Source is here: http://www.liminalis.de/2009_03/TMM/tmm-englisch/Liminalis-2009-TMM-report2008-2009-en.pdf [http://www.liminalis.de/2009_03/TMM/tmm-englisch/Liminalis-2009-TMM-report2008-2009-en.pdf]
4shokwave9yAs far as I'm aware, strikethrough is not available through markdown as it is implemented on this site; to get the strikethrough effect you have to retract your entire post.
4[anonymous]9yThank you for the clarification.
6shokwave9yI think the current norm on LessWrong is putting "edit to add: I no longer believe this claim to be true" in parentheses after the claim. I think your idea of strikethrough is really good, though.
0shokwave9yNope, no strikethrough. Weird.
2Jayson_Virissimo9yThe deleted comment was mine. It was deleted before anyone responded or up/down voted it. I feared that I had completely misunderstood what Jandila had said and didn't think anyone would miss it. Now that I see that I didn't misunderstand the original comment, I regret having deleted it. Is there anyway to recover a deleted comment?
4JoshuaZ9yNo, but you could just reply to Jandila's current comment with a comment explaining what you had meant in the deleted comment.
2wedrifid9yNo.
0[anonymous]9yIs it even missing from Jandila's inbox?

European Philosophers Become Magical Anime Girls

Author Junji Hotta has blessed the world with “Tsundere, Heidegger, and Me”, a tour de force of European philosophy… in a world where all the philosophers are self-conscious anime girls. The books went on sale September 14.

http://aya.shii.org/2011/09/17/european-philosophers-become-magical-anime-girls/

8pedanterrific9yI... that's... I don't... ... I'll be in my bunk.
4gwern9yThey have gone too far.
3Bugmaster9yPlease please please someone translate it into English ! Or Russian, I'm not picky... I must read this manga, if only to see whether the text... disturbs... me as much as the art does.
2NihilCredo9yAt first I thought "Oh, nice, I'll finally know what Christians felt when that horrible Manga Gospel got published", but then I clicked the link and I just couldn't help having a good laugh. It seems I can only simulate the more chill Christians. On further reflection, I got my start on literature through multiple shelves full of comic book adaptations of the classics, so I really shouldn't feel superior. Although to be fair those were a little more faithful to the source material - except for Taras Bulba, which quite shocked me later when I got my hands on the non-bowdlerised version.
1Vaniver9yThat picture of Spinoza displeases me on so many levels.
7pedanterrific9y"Desire is the essence of a man." - Baruch Spinoza

I'm getting increasingly pessimistic about technology.

If we don't get an AI wiping us out or some form of unpleasant brain upload evolution, we'll get hooked by superstimuli and stuff. We don't optimize for well-being, we optimize for what we (think we) want, which are two very different things. (And often, even calling it "optimization" is a stretch.)

9[anonymous]9yNatural selection does not cease operation. Say, for example, that someone invents a box that fully reproduces in every respect the subjective experience of eating and of having eaten by directly stimulating the brain. Dieters would love this device. Here's a device that implements in extreme form the very danger that you fear. In this case, the specific danger is that you will stop eating and die. So the question is, will the device wipe out the human race? Almost certainly it will not wipe out the entire human race, simply because there are enough people around who would nevertheless choose to eat despite the availability of the device, possibly because they make a conscious decision to do so. These people will be the survivors, and they will reproduce, and their children will have both their values (transmitted culturally) and their genes, and so will probably be particularly resistant to the device. That's an extreme case. In the actual case, there are doubtless many people who are not adapting well to technological change. They will tend to die out disproportionately, will tend to reproduce disproportionately less. We have a model of this future in today's addictive drugs. Some people are more resistant to the lure of addictive drugs than others. Some people's lives are destroyed as they pursue the unnatural bliss of drugs, but many people manage to avoid their fate. Many people have so far managed the trick of pursuing super stimuli without destroying their lives in the process.

Keep in mind, it's possible to evolve to extinction.

0smk9yI wish I could upvote that more than once.
0wedrifid9yThe post or the comment? If the former then you just prompted me to vote it up for you. :)
5Will_Newsome9yMe too. smk, your wish has been granted.
5[anonymous]9yWhat struck me about the example in this post that its basically genetically equivalent to reliable easy to use contraception. And now that I think about it humanity basically is like a giant petri dish where someone dumped some antibiotics. The demographic transition is a temporary affair, a die off of maladapted genotypes and memeplexes.
5nerzhin9yIt is not at all clear that the people resistant to addictive drugs are reproducing at a higher rate than those who aren't.
-12[anonymous]9y
5Kaj_Sotala9ySure, I don't think humanity is in any danger of being destroyed by conventional technologies, and I'm pretty sure the Singularity will be happen - in one form or another - way before then. But there may very well be a lot of suffering on the way.
0Will_Newsome9yHave you checked out CFAI? It's like CEV but with less of an emphasis on humans. I really don't like humans and would rather only deal with them via implicit meta-level 'get information about morality from your environment' means, which is more explicit in CFAI than CEV.
0Kaj_Sotala9yI've read part of it, though not all. (I'm a bit confused as to how your comment relates to mine.)
0Will_Newsome9yCEV takes more of an economic perspective where agent-extrapolations make deals with each other. The "good" agent-extrapolations might win out in the end (due to having a more-timeless discount rate, say), but there might be a lot of suffering along the way. CFAI on the other hand takes a less deal-centric perspective where the AI's more directly supposed to reason everything through from first principles, which can avoid predictably-stupid-in-retrospect agents getting much of the future's pie, so to speak. So I'm more afraid of CEV-like thinking than CFAI-like thinking, even though both are scary, because I am more afraid of humans being evil than I'm afraid of me not getting what I want. This may or may not overlap at all with your concerns. (The difference isn't necessarily whether or not they converge on the same policy, it might also be how quickly they converge on that policy. CFAI seems like it'd converge on justifiedness more quickly, but maybe not.)
2Iabalka9yAre you suggesting to leave everything to natural selection? Doesn't strike me as the rationalists' way.
-5MBlume9y
5[anonymous]9y.

Lots of things, but some off the top of my head:

Communication technologies probably top the list. Sure, the Internet has given birth to lots of great communities, like the one where I'm typing this comment. But it has also created a hugely polarized environment. (See the picture on page 4 of this study.) It's ever easier to follow your biases and only read the opinions of people who agree with you, and to think that anyone who disagrees is stupid or evil or both. On one hand, it's great that people can withdraw to their own subcultures where they feel comfortable, but the groupthink that this allows...

"Television is the first truly democratic culture - the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what people do want." -- Clive Barnes. That's even more true for the Internet.

Also, it's getting easier and easier to work, study and live for weeks without talking to anyone else than the grocery store clerk. I don't think that's a particularly good thing from a mental health perspective.

5Alex_Altair9yI gain great confidence from the principle that rational people win, on average. It is rational people that make the world, and if it gets to be something we don't want, we change it. The only real threat is rationalists with different utility functions (e.g. Quirrelmort). (Disclaimer: please don't take this as a promotion of an "us/them" dichotomy.)
3Vaniver9yTalking with your mouth, or talking? Because it's not clear to me that talking online is significantly worse than talking in person at sustaining mental health. I suspect getting a girlfriend/boyfriend will do more for your mental health and social satisfaction than interacting with people face-to-face more.
5Kaj_Sotala9yPersonally I find that if I don't hang out with people in real life every 2-4 days I will get increasingly lethargic and incapable of getting anything done. To what degree this generalizes is another matter.

I find the same thing as Kaj. I've started literally percieving myself as having that set of "needs" bars in the Sims. Bladder bar gets empty, and I need to use the toilet or I'll be uncomfortable. Sleep bar gets low, and I'll be tired until I get enough. Social bar (face to face time) gets low, and I'll feel bleah until I get some face to face time.

The good news is that I've noticed this, become able to distinguish between "not enough facetime Bleah" and other types of Bleah, and then make sure to get face-to-face time when I need it.

4[anonymous]9y.
0Raemon9yThat up until recently the internet (and a wide array of other neural-reward-generating things) made it very easy to NOT notice this and distinguish between various types of mental lethargy.
1[anonymous]9yVery much the same way. The internet has been a mixed blessing -- it allowed me to have the life I have at all, way back when, but now it's also a massive hook for akrasia and encourages sub-optimal use of free time. I'm still trying to get that under control.
3SilasBarta9yIf you mean a face-to-face bf/gf, you're not actually disagreeing with Kaj. Also, I concur with his points about social deprivation leading to lethargy, based on personal experience.
1luminosity9yI've been working from home for a year now. I don't get out and see people often, my family live far away, so I don't have many opportunities to see people in person. The exception is, my brother is staying with me while he studies at University. There have been a few periods however where he's been away up with our parents, or off at a different university in a different state. I have a few friends I talk with regularly online through IM, and it helps, but the periods when my brother was away were still very difficult and I was getting very stressed towards the end, even though we don't interact all that much on a day to day basis, and even though I've always been much more tolerant and even thriving on loneliness than most people I know. Maybe video chatting with people would be an adequate substitute? I haven't tried that, but my anecdote is that IM / talking online alleviates some of the stress, but goes nowhere near to mitigating it.
0kurokikaze9ySorry, but isn't this the criticism of inappropriate use of technologies rather than technologies itself?
3Erebus9yWhat would be the point of criticizing technology on the basis of its appropriate use? Technologies do not exist in a vacuum, and even if they did, there'd be nobody around to use them. Thus restricting to only the "technology itself" is bound to miss the point of the criticism of technology. When considering the potential effects of future technology we need to take into account how the technologies will be used, and it is certainly reasonable to believe that some technologies have been and will be used to cause more harm than good. That a critical argument takes into account the relevant features of the society that uses the technology is not a flaw of the argument, but rather the opposite.
0kurokikaze9yNo, I'm not talking about the basis to criticize technology, but more about of actual target of criticism. Disclaimer: there sure are technologies that can do more harm than good. Here I will concentrate on communications, as you picked it as being one of the top problematic technologies. For me, it all boils down to constructive side of criticism: should we change the technologies of the way we use them? Because I think in first case, new technologies will be used with the same drawbacks for humans as old ones. In the second case, successful usage patterns can be applied to new technologies as well. For example, rather than limit the usage of communication technologies or change the comm technology itself, maybe we should focus on how the people use them. Make television more social. Or make going out with other people more easy and fun. Promote social interaction and activities using existing technologies, not relying on some magic future technology that will solve the existing problems. I think building the solution around existing technologies is a faster way than waiting for new ones. Surely, there are technology side and social/culture side of the problem. But we cannot change any of these fast. We can only expand one to help the other. For example, on one programming site, around two years after its creation, people started to organize meetups in local places, much like LW meetups. Then, year later, other group on the site organized soccer games between different site users. The people liked it. And it doesn't take much time because they were building around existing stuff. Also, sorry for my english. It's not my main language.
1Erebus9yMaybe I misinterpreted your first comment. I agree almost completely with this one, especially the part
3wedrifid9yYou think we optimize for what we think we want? That's a stretch in itself. ;) (Totally agree with what you are saying!)
0Thomas9yI, on the contrary, remain a techno optimist, even more so. It's a kind of sad, that so many clever people here are losing their confidence into the techno progress. Well, maybe not sad, but it certainly means, that they are not onto something big themselves.

Paul Graham's essay "Why Nerds are Unpopular" has been mentioned a few times on LW, in a very positive way.

My initial reaction upon reading that essay a couple years ago was also very positive. However, upon rereading it, I realized it doesn't really fit with my observations or what I know from social science research at all. I want to write a top level post about why I disagree with Graham, but I'm not really sure if that would be on-topic enough for a top-level.

So I guess I'll just put this to a vote. Please upvote this if you think I should write a top-level post.

Please Upvote this if you think I should write a discussion level post.

Why not just do a draft in discussion? It's a top level subject, but how could we judge well at this point without knowing what the post would look like?

1knb9yIf you think I shouldn't post about it at all, please upvote this. Be sure to downvote below.
-38knb9y

Would it be really stupid to use Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres as the fictional character that had an impact on me for my CommonApp essay? On one hand it seems right since he introduced me to lesswrong which has certainly had a big effect but on the other hand... it's... you know... fanfiction.

8[anonymous]9yYou can do it. It's good countersignaling. But you have to be absurdly careful about writing quality. It's your job to convey to a skeptical audience that fanfiction can be transformative. You have to be absolutely brutal in avoiding language that signals immaturity -- or, better, find an editor who can be absolutely brutal to you. My M.O., back in my college-essay days, was to read a New Yorker before sitting down to write. Inhale the style. Better yet, find some essays by Gene Weingarten, the modern master of long-form narrative journalism. Imagine what Gene Weingarten could do with HP:MOR. Then try to do it.
1Tripitaka9yWell, he already did! ---> Here you can help him with his actual text. [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/7o2/help_critique_my_admissions_essay_on_hpmor/]
2thomblake9yIn general, honesty is the best policy. If you really were influenced to great things by HJPEV, explain it well and it should go over well. If the admissions folks are going to say "This well-written and inspiring essay is about fanfiction" and thus throw it in the garbage, it could just as well have been thrown away for the room's lighting or what they had for breakfast.

If you really were influenced to great things by HJPEV, explain it well and it should go over well.

This is important. Deliberately choosing to write about fanfiction is a high-risk move, and so is high-status if you pull it off well! But you might just face-plant. (You don't try out unpracticed tricks in front of a girl you want to impress.)

Or to put it another way:

  1. a high-status fictional character like Hamlet treated mediocrely is a mainstream submission
  2. a low-status fictional character like Bella Swan treated mediocrely is a contrarian submission, and penalized accordingly - the intellectual equivalent of misspelling "it's/its"
  3. a high-status fictional character like Ahab treated well is a conspicuous mainstream signal
  4. a low-status fictional character like MoR!Harry treated well is a meta-contrarian submission, and thus is a conspicuous contrarian signal

All else equal, 3<4.

Also, recognising a low-status character as a low-status character is an important part of 4. Trying to pretend it's high status ("the author is an AI researcher, it is the most reviewed fanfiction ever, it's better than Rowling's Harry Potter", etc) will usually backfire.

Honestly, I'd start by baldly and confidently acknowledging that characters from fanfiction about popular books are low-status, and that you are going to do your piece on him anyway.

4Normal_Anomaly9yAs someone currently going through this process (I just wrote the same essay about Terry Pratchett's character Tiffany Aching), the impression I get is that it's very important to be unique: if your essay is the same as 200 others, it will be penalized as much as if it is poorly written. Using a rationalist fanfiction character, if you can write it well and have the guts to write it sincerely (but not too sincerely, or you'll signal naivete), is a good idea. If you don't want to deal with a fanfiction character, write about some other rationalist. Either way, don't mention lesswrong. And please don't write about Howard Roark. I enjoyed The Fountainhead, but it's worse signaling than fanfiction. You'll look like a shallow thinker who falls for propaganda, and most universities lean to the liberal end of the spectrum. Important note: I'm applying to highly selective colleges with student bodies that think of themselves as contrarian or meta-contrarian. If you aren't, this advice may not apply.
3thomblake9yI stand by my statement. If the essay asked about "the fictional character that had the greatest impact on you" or something to that effect and that person is HJPEV, then that's what you should write about. Otherwise, you'd be lying, and apart from the general wrongness of lying, you're going to write better about something that's true.
1gwern9yI didn't disagree.
3ahartell9yThank you by the way. Your post convinced me to write about him and illuminated the best way to handle it.
4gwern9yIf it's not too personal, I would be curious to see the final product.
1ahartell9yIf I like how it turns out and decide to stick with it I'll message it to you. I may not start for a while though.
2Will_Newsome9yHas anyone done a thorough social psychological game theoretic analysis of college admissions? Seems right up your alley, gwern.
8gwern9yI only play a deep thinker online, I don't think I could write such a thing in a way that isn't merely extensive plagiarism of, say, Steve Sailer. (That said, reading over my comment, I missed an opportunity: I should have pointed out that the reason why 4>3 is because it is an expensive signal in the sense that attempting to do #4 but only achieving a #2 exposes one to considerable punishment whereas one doesn't run such a risk with#1 and #3, and expensive signals are, of course, the most credible signals.)
3[anonymous]9yThe other way to look at the situation is that the admissions folks are looking for a very specific essay. That essay requires you to identify yourself with a character from some postmodern South American novel (or possibly Elie Wiesel in "Night") and certainly has no place in it for fan fiction.

Nope. Admissions folks are looking to be entertained.

0[anonymous]9yI think if you were to choose a character from a conventionally literary work, it should be something generally well-regarded in English departments, but which is very rarely assigned reading in high school. Maybe Middlemarch?
1imaxwell9yHmm... I'm not sure. I'd take the word of someone with experience on an admissions committee, if you can get it. If you do it, I think you'd be better off talking just a little about the character and much more about the community you found. Writing to the prompt is not really important for this sort of thing. (Usually one of the prompts is pretty much "Other," confirming that.)
1Alicorn9yWhat's your second choice?
0ahartell9yI can't think of any other fictional characters with a significant impact so if I don't use him I would write about one of the other prompts. Only I can't think of anything for the other choices and when I saw the fictional character option he immediately jumped to mind.
-1[anonymous]9yHoward Roark is usually a shoe-in for these "which fictional character" essays. EDIT: This is in no way an endorsement of Ayn Rand. She has severe and myriad issues.
0ahartell9yThanks, I haven't read any Ayn Rand but Atlas Shrugged is next in my queue. I guess I'll swap it out for Fountainhead and see what I think. I suspect it will be a bit dishonest to say that he had a great impact on me though if I read the book basically for the sake of the essay.
[-][anonymous]9y 19

I bet admissions committees hate when you say you were influenced by Ayn Rand. You want something either very prestigious, or very unexpected, and Atlas Shrugged is neither. You might well be better off with fanfiction, if you can sell it with a really good essay and leave yourself a little bit of ironic detachment wiggle room.

6Kevin9yAgreed, Rand is a total no-go for college admissions essays.
1wedrifid9yWho are some suitably high status inspirational folks to put on such essay. Mind you college admissions here (Austrailia) are almost entirely based on high school exam scores so the information is completely useless to me!
2Kevin9yThis is the only inspirational thing I have ever read -- the now deleted post-movie option journals of a blind man that had his vision restored and had to teach himself how to see. http://web.archive.org/web/20040401192741/http://www.senderogroup.com/mikejournal.htm#Q1%202000 [http://web.archive.org/web/20040401192741/http://www.senderogroup.com/mikejournal.htm#Q1%202000]
0wedrifid9yThat reminds me. This guy [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_echolocation#Daniel_Kish] is inspiring too! Raw badass.
2John_Maxwell9yRichard Feynman?
2wedrifid9yOh, yeah. Him. I would be cringing as I wrote that. I'd be imagining myself rolling my eyes as I read piles of cookie cutter password guessing applications. Ick. But I'd force myself to write him anyway. I wonder how much status you can get by dropping the name everyone drops. I suppose you at least wouldn't lose points.
5[anonymous]9yOh, dear. This wasn't meant in any way as an endorsement of Ayn Rand. Eh, admission essays are games; they must be played.

I have been wondering recently about how to rationally approach topics that are naturally subjective. Specifically, this came up in conversation about history and historiography. Historic events are objective of course, but a lot of historical scholarship concerns itself with not just describing events, but speculating as to their causes and results. This is naturally going to be influenced by the historian's own cultural context and existing biases.

How can rationalists engage with this inherently subjective topic, and apply rationality techniques? We can ... (read more)

1Bill_McGrath9yHmm. I was a little tired and rushed when I wrote this. There are a few thoughts I'd like to add concerning historiography. As I said above, history, because of its subjective nature, is always influenced by the historian's bias. Historiography could maybe be called the study of these biases, but is in itself subject to the same flaws. No historian's viewpoint on a historical event will be fully objective. But just because no approach can be perfect, does not mean that all approaches can be equally imperfect. My question isn't so much about how to be a rational historian, but more: is there a rational way to evaluate the relative worths of different historical viewpoints?

I noticed a bias about purchasing organic milk this morning, that is perhaps a combination of the sunk cost fallacy, ugh fields and compartmentalization.

My mother is sending me information this morning that I should be giving my children organic milk (to avoid hormones, etc). I don't disagree with her, but I'm probably not going to start buying organic milk. This makes me feel a little sorry for my mother, that she is going to some effort to convince me I ought to take this precaution, and I'm going to nod and agree, and then finally not change my behavio... (read more)

Past-you, using the evidence that past-you had, came to a particular conclusion. Present-you, using more evidence, may come to a different conclusion. Future-you, using still more evidence, may come to yet another conclusion. This is as it should be; that's what evidence is for.

A kind of uncomfortably funny video about turning yourself bisexual, a topic that's come up a few times here on LW. http://youtu.be/zqv-y5Ys3fg

0atucker9yI don't know why I clicked on this link, but the video is pretty funny. I feel like its a parody, mostly because everyone fits their stereotypical role so well. ...Upon reading the bottom of the page, yeah its a parody.
0smk9yYep, it's from the same folks who do the Mr. Deity bits, which are usually pretty funny as well.

I've been debating the validity of reductionism with a friend for a while, and today he presented me with an article (won't link it, it's a waste of your time) arguing that the consciousness-causes-collapse interpretation of QM proves that consciousness is ontologically fundamental/epiphenomenal/ect..

To which I responded: "Yeah, but consciousness-causes-collapse is wrong."

And then realized that the reasons I have rejected it are all reductionist in nature. So he pointed out, fairly, that I was begging the question. And unfortunately, I'm not suf... (read more)

6Kingreaper9yYou don't need to reject CCC without reductionism to defeat his argument. His argument is "If CCC is true, reductionism is false" That's not a reason to reject reductionism, unless you have better reason to hold to CCC than to reductionism.
5Mitchell_Porter9yFrom the perspective of the Copenhagen interpretation, this is like a debate about whether 'consciousness updates the prior', in which 'the prior' is treated as a physical entity which exists independently of observers and their ignorance. In the Copenhagen interpretation - at least as originally intended! - a wavefunction is not a physical state. It is instead like a probability distribution. From this perspective, the mystery of quantum mechanics is not, why do wavefunctions collapse? It is, why do wavefunctions work, and what is the physical reality behind them? The reification of wavefunctions has apparently become an invisible background assumption to a lot of people. But in the Copenhagen interpretation, wavefunctions do not exist, only "observables" exist: the quantities whose behavior the wavefunction helps you to predict. Examples of observables are: the position of an electron; the rate of change of a field; the spin of a photon. In the Copenhagen interpretation, these are what exists. Some examples of things which are not observables and which do not exist: An electron wavefunction with a peak here and a peak there; a photon in a superposition of spin states; in fact, any superposition. Because quantum mechanics does not offer a nonprobabilistic deeper level of description, it is very easy for people to speak and think as if the wavefunctions are the physical realities, but that is not how Copenhagen is supposed to work. To reiterate: "consciousness collapses the wavefunction" in exactly the same sense that "consciousness updates the prior". You are free to invent subquantum physical theories in which wavefunctions are real, in an attempt to explain why quantum mechanics works, and maybe in those theories you want to have something "collapsing" wavefunctions, but you probably wouldn't want that to be "consciousness".
4Owen9yPerhaps that extremely simple systems, that no one would consider conscious, can also "cause collapse"? It doesn't take much: just entangle the superposed state with another particle - then when you measure, canceling can't occur and you perceive a randomly collapsed wavefunction. The important thing is the entangling, not the fact that you're conscious: measuring a superposed state (i.e. entangling your mind with it) will do the trick, but it's entirely unnecessary. I used to believe the consciousness-causes-collapse idea, and it was quite a relief when I realized it doesn't work like that.
1JoshuaZ9ySome of the consciousness causes collapse people would claim that you intended to cause that entanglement. (If you are thinking this sounds like an attempt to make their claims not falsifiable, I'd be inclined to agree.)
1Owen9yI can intentionally do lots of things, some of which cause entanglement and "collapse", and some of which don't. I'd say to them that it still seems like the conscious intent isn't what's important. If you'd like to substitute a better picture for the layperson, I'd go with "disturbing the system causes collapse". (Where "disturb" is really just a nontechnical way of saying "entangle with the environment.") Then it's clear that conscious observation (which involves disturbing the system somehow to get your measurement) will cause (apparent) collapse, but doesn't do so in a special depends-on-consciousness way. And if they want a precise definition of "disturb", you can get into the not-too-difficult math of superposition and entanglement.
2JoshuaZ9yI'm a math grad student and I consider the math of entanglement and the like to be not easy. There are two types of consciousness-causes-collapse proponents. The first type who doesn't know much physics will find entanglement to be pretty difficult (they need to already understand complex numbers and basic linear algebra to get the structure of what is going on). Even a genuinely curious individual will likely have trouble following that unless they are a mathematically inclined individual. The second, much smaller group of people, are people who already understand entanglement but still buy into consciousness-causes collapse.They seem to have developed very complicated and sometimes subtle notions of what it means for things to be conscious or to have intent (almost akin to theologians). So in either case this avenue of attack seems unlikely to be successful. If one is more concerned with convincing bystanders (as is often more relevant on the internet. People might not change their minds often. But people reading might), then this could actually do a good job when encountering the first category by making it clear that one knows a lot more about the subject than they do. This seems to empirically work in real life also as one can see in various discussions. See for example the cases Deepak Chopra has try to invoke a connection between QM and consciousness and he gets shot down pretty bluntly when there's anyone with a bit of math or physics background.
2Owen9yYou're right; maybe I'm overestimating my ability to explain things so that laypeople will understand. But there are some concessions you can make to get the idea across without the full background of complex linear algebra - often I use polarizers as an example, because most people have some experience with them (from sunglasses or 3D movies), and from there it's only a hop, skip, and a jump to entangled photons. I do try to explain so that people feel like the explanation is totally natural, but then I often run into the problem of people trying to reason about quantum mechanics "in English", so to speak, instead of going to the underlying math to learn more. Any suggestions?
3JoshuaZ9yIt seems to me that it is easier to get people to realize just that they can't use their regular language to understand what is going on than to actually explain it. People seem to have issues with understanding this primarily because of Dunning-Kruger and because of the large number of popularizations of difficult science that just uses vague analogies. I'd ask "ok. This is going to take some math. Did you ever take linear algebra?" If yes, then I just explain things. When they answer no (vast majority of the time)I then say "ok do you remember how matrix multiplication works?" They will generally not or have only a vague memory. At that point I then tell them that I could spending a few hours or so developing the necessary tools but that they really don't have the background without a lot of work. This generally results in annoyance and blustering on their part. At this point one tells them the story of Oresme and how he came up with the idea of gravity in the 1300s but since he didn't have a mathematical framework it was absolutely useless. This gets the point across sometimes. Edit: Your idea of using polarization as an example is an interesting one and I may try that in the future.
1Owen9yUpvoted; thanks for providing the name "Dunning-Kruger" and the Oresme example!
2Manfred9yI wouldn't call occam's razor an explicit part of reductionism. It's basically equivalent to saying you can't just make up information.
2JoshuaZ9yI don't think so. This may be the case when your hypotheses are something like "A" and "A v B" but if your hypotheses you are comparing are "A" and "C ^ D ^ E" this sort of summary of Occam's razor seems to be insufficient.
0Manfred9yIf both hypotheses explain some set of data, I've usually been able to make a direct comparison even in what look like tough cases by following the information in the data - what sort of process generates it, etc. Keeping things in terms of the "language" of the data is in fact also justified by the idea that pulling information from nowhere is bad. This sort of reliance on our observations is certainly an empiricist assumption, but I don't think a reductionist one.
5JoshuaZ9yConsider the following problem. You know that there is some some property that some integers have and others don't and you are trying to figure out what the property is. After testing every integer under 10^4, you find that there are 1229 integers under 10^4 that work. You have two hypotheses that describe these. One is that they are every prime number. The other is a given by a 1228 degree polynomial where P(n) gives the nth number in your set. One of these is clearly simpler. This isn't just a language issue- if I tried to right these out in any reasonable equivalent of a Turing machine or programming language one of them will be a much shorter program. The distinction here however is not just one of one of them making up information. One is genuinely shorter. If one wants we can give similar historical examples. In 1620 you could make a Copernican model of the solar system that would rival Kepler's model in accuracy. But you would need a massive number of epicycles. The problem here doesn't seem to be pulling information from nowhere. The problem seems to be that one of the hypotheses is simpler in a different way. Both of these examples do have something in common which is that in both of the complicated examples there are a lot of parameters that are observationally dependent whereas the other has many fewer of those. But that seems to be a distinct issue (although it is possibly a good very rough way of measuring complexity of hypotheses).
2Vladimir_Nesov9yThis quite possibly can't be done. If you handicap yourself by refusing to use an idea while examining its merits, you may well draw inferior conclusions about it, and modify it in a way that makes it worse. You should use your whole mind to reflect on itself (unless you conclude some of its parts are not to be trusted). See these posts in particular: * The Lens That Sees Its Flaws [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jm/the_lens_that_sees_its_flaws/] * Occam's Razor [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jp/occams_razor/] * A Priori [http://lesswrong.com/lw/k2/a_priori/] * Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom [http://lesswrong.com/lw/s0/where_recursive_justification_hits_bottom/] * Which Parts Are "Me"? [http://lesswrong.com/lw/v4/which_parts_are_me/]
1JoshuaZ9yThere are a variety of different issues. First, it assumes that consciousness exists as an ontological unit. This isn't just a problem with reductionism but is a problem with Occam's razor. What precisely one means by reductionism can be complicated and subtle with some versions more definite or plausible than others. But regardless, there's no good evidence that consciousness is an irreducible. Second, it raises serious questions about what things were like before there were conscious entities. If no collapse occurred prior to conscious entities what does that say about the early universe and how it functioned? Note that this actually raises potentially testable claims if one can use telescopes to look back before the dawn of life. Unfortunately, I've never seen any consciousness causes collapse proponent either explain why this doesn't lead to any observable difference or make any plausible claim about what differences one would observe. Third, it violates a general metapattern of history. As things have progressed the pattern has consistently been that minds don't interact with the laws of physics in any fundamental way and that more and more ideas about how minds might interact have been thrown out (ETA: There are a few notable exceptions such as some of the stuff involving the placebo effect.). We've spent much of the last few hundred years establishing stronger and stronger versions of this claim. Thus, as a simple matter of induction, one would expect that trend if anything to continue. (I don't know how much inducting on the pattern of discoveries is justified.) Fourth, it is ill-defined. What constitutes a conscious mind? Presumably people are conscious. Are severely mentally challenged people conscious? Are the non-human great apes conscious? Are ravens and other corvids conscious? Are dogs or cats conscious? Are mice conscious? Etc. down to single celled organisms and viruses. Fifth, consciousness causes collapse is a hypothesis that is easily supp

I don't recall any discussion on LW -- and couldn't find any with a quick search -- about the "Great Rationality Debate", which Stanovich summarizes as:

An important research tradition in the cognitive psychology of reasoning--called the heuristics and biases approach--has firmly established that people’s responses often deviate from the performance considered normative on many reasoning tasks. For example, people assess probabilities incorrectly, they display confirmation bias, they test hypotheses inefficiently, they violate the axioms of util

... (read more)
6rehoot9yI don't understand the basis for the Cosmides and Tooby claim. In their first study, Cosmides and Tooby (1996) solved the difficult part of a Bayesian problem so that the solution could be found by a "cut and paste" approach. The second study was about the same with some unnecessary percentages deleted (they were not needed for the cut and paste solution--yet the authors were surprised when performance improved). Study 3 = Study 2. Study 4 has the respondents literally fill in the blanks of a diagram based on the numbers written in the question. 92% of the students answered that one correctly. Studies 5 & 6 returned the percentages and the students made many errors. Instead of showing innate, perfect reasoning, the study tells me that students at Yale have trouble with Bayesian reasoning when the question is framed in terms of percentages. The easy versions do not seem to demonstrate the type of complex reasoning that is needed to see the problem and frame it without somebody framing it for you. Perhaps Cosmides and Tooby are correct when they show that there is some evidence that people use a "calculus of probability" but their study showed that people cannot frame the problems without overwhelming amounts of help from somebody who knows the correct answer. Reference Cosmides, L. & Tooby, J. (1996). Are humans good intuitive statisticians after all? Rethinking some conclusions from the literature on judgment under uncertainty. Cognition 58, 1–73, DOI: 10.1016/0010-0277(95)00664-8
5anonym9yI agree. I was hoping somebody could make a coherent and plausible sounding argument for their position, which seems ridiculous to me. The paper you referenced shows that if you present an extremely simple problem of probability and ask for the answer in terms of a frequency (and not as a single event), AND you present the data in terms of frequencies, AND you also help subjects to construct concrete, visual representations of the frequencies involved by essentially spoon-feeding them the answers with leading questions, THEN most of them will get the correct answer. From this they conclude that people are good intuitive statisticians after all, and they cast doubt on the entire heuristics and biases literature because experimenters like Kahneman and Tversky don't go to equally absurd lengths to present every experimental problem in ways that would be most intuitive to our paleolithic ancestors. The implication seems to be that rationality cannot (or should not) mean anything other than what the human brain actually does, and the only valid questions and problems for testing rationality are those that would make sense to our ancestors in the EEA.
0JonathanLivengood9yI'm not sure I'm up to the challenge, but here goes anyway ... I think you are being ungenerous to the position Tooby and Cosmides mean to defend. As I read them (see especially Section 22 of their paper), they are trying to do two things. First, they want to open up the question of how exactly people reason about probabilities -- i.e., what mechanisms are at work, not just what answers people give. Second, they want to argue that humans are slightly more rational than Kahneman and Tversky give them credit for being. First point. Tooby and Cosmides do not actually commit to the position that humans use a probability calculus in their probabilistic reasoning. What they do argue is that Kahneman and Tversky were too quick to dismiss the possibility that humans do use a probability calculus -- not just heuristics -- in their probabilistic reasoning. If humans never gave the output demanded by Bayes' theorem, then K&T would have to be right. But T&C show that in more ecologically valid cases, (most) humans do give the output demanded by Bayes. So, the question is re-opened as to what brain mechanism takes frequency inputs and gives frequency outputs in accordance with Bayes' theorem. That mechanism might or might not instantiate a rule in a calculus. Second point. If you are tempted (by K&T's research) to say that humans are just dreadfully bad at statistical reasoning, then maybe you should hold off for a second. The question is a little bit under-specified. Do you mean "bad at statistical reasoning in general, in an abstract setting" or do you mean "bad at statistical reasoning in whatever form it might take"? If the former, then T&C are going to agree. If you frame a statistics problem with percentages, you get all kinds of errors. But if you mean the latter, then T&C are going to say that humans do pretty well on problems that have a particular form, and not surprisingly, that form is more ecologically valid. General rule of charity: If someone appears to be de
4Vaniver9yTypically, the "optimal thinking" argument gets brought up here in the context of evolutionary psychology. Loss aversion makes sound reproductive sense when you're a hunter-gatherer, and performing a Bayesian update carefully doesn't help all that much. But times have changed, and humans have not changed as much.

I tried writing an essay arguing that popular distaste for politicians is due largely to base rate neglect leading people to think they are worse than they are: http://www.gwern.net/Notes#politicians-are-not-unethical (I don't think it works, though.)

0Vaniver9yHeart -> Hearst. Also, the Edwards example you gives suggests that one story may not be sufficient (I don't know how many times the Enquirer reported on it before other media picked it up, but I know the rest did only months later).
2gwern9yThanks; I've incorporated both.
0Oscar_Cunningham9yI can't find that content on that page.
2gwern9yCaching. (This has been enough of a problem with linking to new content - people having the old page cached - that I've been thinking of turning it off, even with the speed/bandwidth hit.)
0Oscar_Cunningham9yThanks.

Has anyone been able to play Mafia using bayesian methods? I have tried and failed due to encountering situations that eluded my attempts to model them mathematically. But since I am not strong at math, I'm hoping others have had success?

And the related question: any mafiascum.net players here?

Edit: I mean specifically using bayesian methods for online forum-based Mafia games. These seem to me to give the player enough time to do conscious calculations.

2Jack9yI wonder if there aren't any group rationality games that don't seriously undermined group moral and cohesion. The last time I played Mafia people ended up crying and my relationship with my brother and cousin went through traumatic upheaval. Diplomacy is not a better option.
3katydee9yThis seems like an unusual experience to have. I have played Mafia with 3+ non-overlapping groups in person and 4+ non-overlapping groups online, and have yet to encounter any trouble; in fact, in two of the cases we were explicitly playing as a bonding exercise to improve group morale and cohesion, and it seems to have worked both times.
1ataftoti9yAnd what about the times before that? Playing mafia has never undermined real social relationships in my experience, and I've introduced this game to perhaps 20 people in real life, with at least 2 completely non-overlapping groups. Also, I doubt face-to-face mafia should be considered a game that especially exercises rationality. It seems to me that you get thrown a huge fuckton of cognitive biases with no time to combat them. (again, my original question should specify "forum based mafia games"...let me edit that now...)
1Jack9yOn reflection, I think the problems came from the people in the group being too close. I have certainly had fun before. We may have also taken the game too seriously.
1Will_Sawin9yIt's more like it teaches a sort of mini-rationality: "You're swimming in cognitive biases, but your intuitions can also be helpful. Empirically develop a few techniques to separate good intuitions from bad with decent error probability."
0shokwave9yIn my experience playing with a rationality crowd (at a meet-up), it was excellent for learning the visceral feeling of motivated cognition.
1shokwave9yI can report that playing Mafia at a meetup markedly improved group interaction. What impact this has on your position is unknown.
0lessdazed9yBalderdash/Fictionary?
1katydee9yI play online Mafia but haven't attempted to use explicit Bayesian reasoning to do so.
0ataftoti9yPlease attempt and see if you have better results than I did. And if you succeed come back and tell us all about it! :-)
1katydee9yI'm not sure that doing so would be useful. It seems like normal Mafia techniques already approximate Bayesian reasoning, and formalizing it would be very challenging and IMO unlikely to offer unusual insights. That said, I'm fairly good at online Mafia and I suspect such techniques would better benefit less advanced players.
3Normal_Anomaly9yThere are such things as Mafia techniques? I've never seen anyone do better than chance. Care to explain?
1katydee9yCertainly. A basic Mafia technique is examining the past play of the person you're suspicious of, then looking at whether their current play is more similar to their play as scum or their play as town. There is also wide knowledge (at least online) of moves that are generally "scummy," such as congratulating the doctor after he or she successfully protects, as these moves have been determined to be commonly used by scum. Of course, all of this is constantly evolving, since once something is generally known as a scumtell, advanced scum players avoid it. Further, different things are tells at different levels of play, which tends to make the game much more complicated than my above description might indicate. That said, I think it's certainly possible to do better than chance-- my own record, at least of games that I can remember, is 4 wins to 1 loss, all as town (I have yet to be scum in my recent games). Further, there are some situations where certain tactics have been determined, over wide periods of play, to be dominant, and applying these strategies gives you a very high chance to win. For instance, if the town has a doctor and a cop (and knows this) and also knows the scumgroup has no roleblocker, the best strategy is to stop voting to lynch, have the cop claim, and have the cop constantly investigate while protected by the doctor. The scum must then start hitting other targets in hopes of getting the doc. A truly advanced doctor will then, knowing the scum is doing this, not actually protect the cop but instead protect other members of the town in the hopes of blocking the scum's pseudorandom flailing, but a truly advanced scum player might anticipate this and try to kill the cop instead-- so there are mindgames all over the place, but dominant strategies are still known. Generally, I feel like Mafia-- at least online Mafia-- is a rather good rationality exercise. I could expand this to a top-level post if there's interest.
0ataftoti9yDo make the top-level post please. I think there is use in the making Mafia more well-known in demographics such as the one we have here. In my experience the outcome of face-to-face mafia can be even more dependent on the players' skill, once you get past the newbie phase. Not just because newbies can't read others well, but I think they are also less readable due to undeveloped meta and making vastly suboptimal plays that regular scumhunting techniques do not read well. Once there is some standard in the players' moves and some meta is available, one can read much more accurately in face-to-face games than online due to factors such as tone, moments of hesitation, and body language. And thus for a given single game, I would rather play mafia face-to-face with groups of regular players than online, though I would prefer playing online to face-to-face with a whole group of newbies.
0katydee9yFace-to-face Mafia is certainly easier to read people in, but this actually (IMO) makes it a worse game. There are other issues as well, such as the inability of the Mafia to communicate articulately at night, but if you're a good lie detector (or the scum are bad liars) the game becomes almost trivial, and introducing the difficulties of online communication IMO adds an appealing element of challenge. That said, I agree that face-to-face Mafia with a regular group can certainly be fun and even educational in itself.
0Normal_Anomaly9yIt sounds like online Mafia is a totally different and much better game than what I've played at various icebreaker functions, camps, and times when there's a substitute teacher. I'll check it out if I ever have a clear enough schedule. Also, I'd definitely enjoy a top-level post if you made one.
1bcoburn9yI don't know how well it works in games with only 1 scum player, but with at least two just the fact that there are two players who know they each have a partner changes their behavior enough that the game isn't random. There's also some change in what people say just because each side has a different win condition, although again this is less true with just one scum player. As just a simple example, when you're playing as the scum it can be really hard (at least for me) to make a good argument that someone I know is a normal villager isn't, which can be enough for another player to deduce my role.
1Normal_Anomaly9yThat's interesting; I haven't played enough mafia to really study it. And in all the games I have played, the town always lynches the first player someone bothers to accuse--there aren't any actual arguments.
0ataftoti9yI just had 4 games with the same 5 players (setup is 4 town 1 scum) that all ended in scum victory. Random lynching should yield only 53% chance of scum victory. 0.53^4 seems low enough that this is likely a case of better than random. The players in this case were new to the game with the exception of myself (and after the first couple games I was constantly night killed). I was going to say that this seems to suggest that scum is stronger in newbie games, but then I realized I have no data to draw this comparison with. :-(
0Normal_Anomaly9yWere you the scum in any of the games?
0ataftoti9yI was scum in none of the games.
0ataftoti9yI want to read some games of mafia players who browse this site. Do you mind pointing me to some of your games?
0katydee9yUnfortunately I play mostly as a diversion on a private site, not on mafiascum or epicmafia, so they aren't as out in the open as you'd like. If you want I can link you to a recent newbie game that I was in on mafiascum, but the number of replacements makes it a little hard to follow and it's not exactly anyone's best play either.
0ataftoti9ySure, link to it.
0katydee9yHere it is [http://mafiascum.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=18491]. I'm "Fetterkey."
1Oscar_Cunningham9yTrying to update even on just the well-defined data looks impossible for humans, trying to update on what other people are saying would be difficult, even with a computer. Also, it seems like there might be certain disadvantages if you turn out to be Mafia.
1ataftoti9yAllow me to specify: I am referring to online forum mafia games. These games are slow enough that one can do some calculations, if one can find the numbers (and that seems to be the hard part, along with deciding how they should be calculated). I've thought and am still thinking that the fact that I've never heard of bayesian methods being used in mafia is simply an observation about the failures of players, not that it inherently cannot be done using available tools. Frankly I'm surprised mafia does not seem to attract more attention from the demographic concerned with rationality. If some set of methods were developed that consistently worked and cut through the jungle of biases that is the nature of the game, then that would be an achievement for the progress of rationality, would it not? I think many methods that may develop would easily transfer to other uses as well.
[-][anonymous]9y 3

EDIT: this comment was made when I was in a not-too-reasonable frame of mind, and I'm over it.

Is teaching, learning, studying rationality valuable?

Not as a bridge to other disciplines, or a way to meet cool people. I mean, is the subject matter itself valuable as a discipline in your opinion? Is there enough to this? Is there anything here worth proselytizing?

I'm starting to doubt that. "Here, let me show you how to think more clearly" seems like an insult to anyone's intelligence. I don't think there's any sense teaching a competent adult... (read more)

Yesterday I spoke with my doctor about skirting around the FDA's not having approved of a drug that may be approved in Europe first (it may be approved in the US first). I explained that one first-world safety organization's imprimatur is good enough for me until the FDA gives a verdict, and that harm from taking a medicine is not qualitatively different than harm from not taking a medicine.

We also discussed a clinical trial of a new drug, and I had to beat him with a stick until he abandoned "I have absolutely no idea at all if it will be better for you or not". I explained that abstractly, a 50% chance of being on a placebo and a 50% chance of being on a medicine with a 50% chance of working was better than assuredly taking a medicine with a 20% chance of working, and that he was able to give a best guess about the chances of it working.

In practice, there are other factors involved, in this case it's better to try the established medicine first and just see if it works or not, as part of exploration before exploitation.

This is serious stuff.

-3wedrifid9yBetter yet, if you aren't feeling like being altruistic you go on the trial then test the drug you are given to see if it is the active substance. If not you tell the trial folks that placebos are for pussies and go ahead and find either an alternate source of the drug or the next best thing you can get your hands on. It isn't your responsibility to be a control subject unless you choose to be!

Downvoted for encouraging people to screw over other people by backing out of their agreements... What would happen to tests if every trial patient tested their medicine to see if it's a placebo? Don't you believe there's value in having control groups in medical testing?

7AlanCrowe9yLessdazed is describing quite a messy situation. Let me split out various subcases. First is the situation with only one approval authority running randomised controlled trials on medicines. These trials are usually in three phases. Phase I on healthy volunteers to check for toxicity and metabolites. Phase II on sufferers to get an idea of the dose needed to affect the course of the illness. Phase III to prove that the therapeutic protocol established in Phase II actually works. I have health problems of my own and have fancied joining a Phase III trial for early access to the latest drugs. Reading around for example [http://pipeline.corante.com/] it seems to be routine for drugs to fail in Phase III. Outcomes seem to be vaguely along the lines of three in ten are harmful, six in ten are useless, one in ten is beneficial. So the odds that a new drug will help, given that it was the one out of ten that passed Phase III, are good, while the odds that a new drug will help, given that it is about to start on Phase III are bad. Joining a Phase III trial is a genuinely altruistic act by which the joiner accepts bad odds for himself to help discover valuable information for the greater good. I was confused by the idea of joining a Phase III trial and unblinding it by testing the pill to see whether one had been assigned to the treatment arm of the study or the control arm. Since the drug is more likely to be harmful than to be beneficial, making sure that you get it is playing against the odds! Second, Lessdazed seemed to be considering the situation in which EMA [http://www.ema.europa.eu/ema/index.jsp?curl=/pages/home/Home_Page.jsp] has approved a drug and the FDA is blocking it in America, simply as a bureaucratic measure to defend its home turf. If it were really as simple as that, I would say that cheating to get round the bureaucratic obstacles is justified. However the great event of my lifetime was man landing on the Moon. NASA was brilliant and later became
0lessdazed9yIt's in Phase III.
2wedrifid9yDownvoted for actively polluting the epistemic belief pool for the purpose of a shaming attempt. I here refer especially (but not only) to the rhetorical question: I obviously believe there's a value in having control groups. Not only is that an obvious belief but it is actually conveyed by my comment. It is a required premise for the assertion of altruism to make sense. My comment observes that sacrificing one's own (expected) health for the furthering of human knowledge is an act of altruism. Your comment actively and directly sabotages human knowledge for your own political ends. The latter I consider inexcusable and the former is both true and necessary if you wish to encourage people who are actually capable of strategic thinking on their own to be altruistic. You don't persuade rationalists to conform to your will by telling them A is made of fire [http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1899#comic] or by trying to fool them into believing A, B and C don't even exist. That's how you persuade suckers.
7lessdazed9yOK, see, I thought this might happen. I love your first comment, much more than ArisKatsaris', but despite it having some problems ArisKatsaris is referring to, not because it is perfect. I only upvoted his comment so I could honestly declare that I had upvoted both of your comments, as I thought that might diffuse the situation - to say I appreciated both replies. Don't get me wrong - I don't really mind ArisKatsaris' comment and I don't think it's as harmful as you seem to, but I upvoted it for the honesty reason. You just committed an escalation of the same order of magnitude that he did, or more, as his statements were phrased as questions and were far less accusatory. I thought you might handle this situation like this and I mildly disapprove of being this aggressive with this tone this soon in the conversation.
-1wedrifid9yA very slightly harmful instance of a phenomenon that is moderately bad when done on things that matter. Where 'this soon' means the end. There is nothing more to say, at in this context. (As a secondary consideration my general policy is that conversations which begin with shaming terminate with an error condition immediately.) I do, however, now have inspiration for a post on the purely practical downsides of suppression of consideration of rational alternatives in situations similar to that discussed by the post. EDIT: No, not post. It is an open thread comment by yourself that could have been a discussion post!
1lessdazed9yI'm not unsympathetic. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7ge/question_whats_your_elevator_pitch_for_rationality/4s5a] Compare and contrast my(September 7th, 2011) approach to yours(September 7th, 2011), I guess. ADBOC, it didn't have to be. It sort of soon became one. [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/7hn/safety_can_be_dangerous/]
5ArisKatsaris9yNot so, there exists altruism that is worthless or even of negative value. An all-altrustic CooperateBot is what allows DefectBots to thrive. Someone can altruistically spend all his time praying to imaginary deities for the salvation of mankind, and his prayers would still be useless. To think that altruism is about value is a map-territory confusion. Your comment doesn't just say it's altruistic. It also tells him that if he doesn't feel like being an altruist, that he should tell people that "placebos are for pussies". Perhaps you were just joking when you effectively told him to insult altruists, and I didn't get it. Either way, if he defected in this manner, not just he'd be partially sabotaging the experiment he signed up for, he'd probably be sabotaging his future chances of being accepted in any other trial. I know that if I was a doctor, I would be less likely to accept you in a medical trial. Um, what? I don't understand. What deceit do you believe I committed in my above comment?
8Jack9yLet me see if I can summarize this thread: Wedrifid made a strategic observation that if a person cares more about their own health then the integrity of the trial it makes sense to find out whether they are on placebo and, if they are, leave the trial and seek other solutions. He did this with somewhat characteristic colorful language. You then voted him down for expressing values you disagree with. This is a use of downvoting that a lot of people here frown on, myself included (though I don't downvote people for explaining their reasons for downvoting, even if those reasons are bad). Even if wedrifid thought people should screw up controlled trials for their own benefit his comment was still clever, immoral or not. Of course, he wasn't actually recommending the sabotage of controlled trials-- though his first comment was sufficiently ambiguous that I wouldn't fault someone for not getting it. Luckily, he clarified this point for you in his reply. Now that you know wedrifid actually likes keeping promises and maintaining the integrity of controlled trials what are you arguing about?
3ArisKatsaris9yTo me it didn't feel like an observation, it felt like a very strong recommendation, given phrases like "Better yet", "tell them placebos are for pussies", "It isn't your responsibility!", etc Eh, not really. It seemed shortsighted -- it doesn't really give an alternate way of procuring this medicine, it has the possibilty to slightly delay the actual medicine from going on the market (e.g. if other test subjects follow the example of seeking to learn if they're on a placebo and also abandon the testing, that forcing the thing to be restarted from scratch), and if a future medicine goes on trial, what doctor will accept test subjects that are known to have defected in this way? Primarily I fail to understand what deceit he's accusing me of when he compares my own attitude to claiming that "A is made of fire" (in context meaning effectively that I said defectors will be punished posthumously go to hell; that I somehow lied about the repercussions of defections). He attacks me for committing a crime against knowledge -- when of course that was what I thought he was committing, when I thought he was seeking to encourage control subjects to find out if they're a placebo and quit the testing. Because you know -- testing = search for knowledge, sabotaging testing = crime against knowledge. Basically I can understand how I may have misunderstood him --- but I don't understand in what way he is misunderstanding me.
0lessdazed9yUpvoted comment and parent.

You're confuting two things here: whether rationality is valuable to study, and whether rationality is easy to proselytize.

My own experience is that it's been very valuable for me to study the material on Less Wrong- I've been improving my life lately in ways I'd given up on before, I'm allocating my altruistic impulses more efficiently (even the small fraction I give to VillageReach is doing more good than all of the charity I practiced before last year), and I now have a genuine understanding (from several perspectives) of why atheism isn't the end of truth/meaning/morals. These are all incredibly valuable, IMO.

As for proselytizing 'rationality' in real life, I haven't found a great way yet, so I don't do it directly. Instead, I tell people who might find Less Wrong interesting that they might find Less Wrong interesting, and let them ponder the rationality material on their own without having to face a more-rational-than-thou competition.

8Swimmer9639yThis phrase jumped out in my mind as "shiny awesome suggestion!" I guess in a way it's what I've been trying to do for awhile, since I found out early, when learning how to make friends, that most people and especially most girls don't seem to like being instructed on living their life. ("Girls don't want solutions to their problems," my dad quotes from a book about the male versus the female brain, "they want empathy, and they'll get pissed off if you try to give them solutions instead.") The main problem is that most of my social circle wouldn't find LW interesting, at least not in its current format. Including a lot of people who I thought would benefit hugely from some parts, especially Alicorn's posts on luminosity. (I know, for example, that my younger sister is absolutely fascinated by people, and loves it when I talk neuroscience with her. I would never tell her to go read a neuroscience textbook, and probably not a pop science book either. Book learning just isn't her thing.)
1AdeleneDawner9yDepending on what you mean by 'format', you might be able to direct those people to the specific articles you think they'd benefit from, or even pick out particular snippets to talk to them about (in a 'hey, isn't this a neat thing' sense, not a 'you should learn this' sense).
1Swimmer9639y"Pick out particular snippets" seems to work quite well. If something in the topic of conversation tags, in my mind, to something I read on LessWrong, I usually bring it up and add it to the conversation, and my friends usually find it neat. But except with a few select people (and I know exactly who they are) posting an article on their facebook wall and writing "this is really cool!" doesn't lead to the article actually being read. Or at least they don't tell me about reading it.
4AdeleneDawner9yIf facebook is like twitter in that regard, I mostly wouldn't expect you to get feedback about an article having been read - but I'd also not expect an especially high probability that the intended person actually read it, either. What I meant was more along the lines of emailing/IMing them individually with the relevant link. (Obviously this doesn't work too well if you know a whole lot of people who you think should read a particular article. I can't advise about that situation - my social circle is too small for me to run into it.)

I, uh, just did that, and received this reply half an hour later:

Wow, thanks for destroying my chance of getting any work done for the next 7-10 days! Some friend you are!

I think that counts as a success.

0Normal_Anomaly9yUpvotes to you for trying something instead of defaulting to doing nothing.
4orthonormal9yIt wasn't actually on account of this discussion that I introduced my friend to LW (since I didn't read Swimmer and Adelene's comments till afterward)- I just posted the reaction here because it was funny and relevant.
1Swimmer9639ySorry for the delayed reply... I don't know what Twitter is like, but the function on Facebook that I prefer to use (private messages) is almost like email and seems to be replacing email among much of my social circle. I will preferentially send my friends FB messages instead of emails, since I usually get a reply faster. Writing on someone's wall is public, and might result in a slower reply because it seems less urgent. But it's still directed at a particular person, and it would be considered rude not to reply at all. But when I post an article or link, the reply I often get is "thanks, looks neat, I'll read that later."
[-][anonymous]9y 17

Can you imagine a perfectly competent person -- say, a science student -- who hasn't heard of "rationalism" in our sense of the world, finding such instruction appealing? I really can't.

At some point I was that person. Weren't you?

3wedrifid9yA little bit but it varies wildly based on who you are. Not really.
2handoflixue9yI was recently around some old friends who are lacking in rationality, and kept finding myself at a complete loss. I wanted to just grab them and say exactly that. In other news, I've learned that some lessons in how to politely and subtly teach rationality would be quite welcome >.>
0Morendil9yWhere's that coming from, then?
2[anonymous]9yWell, there's been some talk about organizing a meetup group in my area, and I'm not really comfortable with that.
1Morendil9yAre you not comfortable with that happening at all, or not comfortable with being involved in one? What are your concerns - wasting your time, being perceived as belonging to a "weird" group, being drawn into a group process that is a net negative value to you? I realize I'm not answering your original question. I'm still thinking about that one.
0[anonymous]9yI'm not comfortable with it existing. I think it's not useful.
2Morendil9yI'm more than a little surprised to see you say this, given your past writings on the subject - if asked I would certainly have guessed that your reply to your own question would have been "yes, of course". I'm curious to know more, if you're comfortable saying more. Not sure what to say otherwise. People with a common interest meeting up seems natural enough. I have reservations about normativism [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/7fs/elqayam_evans_2011_argue_against_a_certain_kind/] with respect to ways of thinking, but it does seem to me that what we are learning here is worthwhile in and of itself: because it is about finding out exactly what we are [http://lesswrong.com/lw/2kp/fiveminute_rationality_techniques/2eog], and because - just like a zebra [http://lesswrong.com/lw/uf/awww_a_zebra/] - what we are is something rare and peculiar and fascinating.
[-][anonymous]9y 10

Well, if there are other people who feel that way, they're free to meet up to share that interest.

My serious answer: I'm not sure there's a well-defined, cumulative, discipline-like body of knowledge in the LessWrong memeplex. I don't know how it could be presented to an intelligent outsider who's never heard of it. I don't know whether it could be presented in a way that makes us look good.

My not-so-serious answer: a lot of the time I just don't care any more.

It sounds to me like you might be in some kind of depression or low-enthusiasm state. I don't hear a coherent critique in these comments, so much as a general sense of "boo 'rationality'/LW".

Contrast:

Are you not comfortable with that happening at all, or not comfortable with being involved in one?

I'm not comfortable with it existing. I think it's not useful.

and

People with a common interest meeting up seems natural enough.

Well, if there are other people who feel that way, they're free to meet up to share that interest

This feels inconsistent; as if you had been caught giving a non-true rejection.

[-][anonymous]9y 22

That turned out to be the case.

Now and then I go a bit crazy and find it difficult to value anything. Luckily the worst symptom is that I don't get much done for a while, and post gloomy comments on websites.

5arundelo9yAt least for me, being able to look at things like this ("I am in a bad mood" instead of "everything sucks") is quite a blessing. Hope you feel better now or soon! [Edit: wording tweak.]
-1[anonymous]9y.
0arundelo9yYou might be reading SarahC as saying that teaching a competent adult to change his or her habits of thought is not possible (if you're not, ignore this comment), but I think she's saying that it's not worthwhile.
1handoflixue9yIf it is not worthwhile for competent adults to learn something as basic as "how to change their mind" then I would have to agree with the conclusion that we are doomed.
3Jack9yEr why, exactly? Most competent adults in history have not known how to change their mind? The worlds has improved because of those who do. It seems to me that the key variable in teaching rationality is whether the student is willing. Most people just don't care that much about the truth of their far-beliefs. But occasional people do and those are the people you can teach. Thats why everyone here is a truth fetishist. What we need is more pro-truth propaganda so that in the next generation the pool of potential rationalists is larger.
2handoflixue9yThe emphasis here is on worthwhile: the idea that changing your mind, and knowing how to, has a tangible benefit, and one that is (generally, on average) worth the effort it takes to learn. If there's no particular benefit to changing your mind, then either (a) you have already selected the best outcome or (b) your choices are irrelevant. If this is the best possible world, then I feel okay calling us doomed; it's a pretty lousy world. As to irrelevancy, well, to think that I'd live the same life regardless of whether "Will you marry me?" is met with yes or no? That is not a world I want. The idea that given a set of choices, the outcome remains the same across them is just a terrifying nihilistic idea to me.
-2Jack9yThe claim isn't that it isn't worthwhile to learn rationalism, period. The claim is that for lots of people, it isn't worthwhile.
2handoflixue9yThe claim is that, for lots of people, the net gain from changing their mind is so minimal as to not be worth the time spent studying. This implies strongly that, for lots of people, they have either (a) already made the best choice or (b) are not faced with any meaningful choices. (a) implies that either lots of people are completely incapable of good decisions or are the Chosen Of God, their every selection Divinely Inspired from amongst the best of all possible worlds. Which goes back to this being a pretty lousy world. (b) flies in the face of all the major decisions people normally make (marriage, buying a house, having children, etc.), and suggests that, statistically, a lot of the "important decisions" in my own life are probably meaningless unless I am the Chosen Of Bayes, specially exempt from the nihilism that blights the mundane masses. For some people there may be the class (c) that the cost of learning rationality is much, much higher than normal. If your focus is on this group, that's a whole different conversation about why I think this is really rare :)
2Jack9yJust to begin with, the above is a terrible way to structure an inductive argument about something as variable has human behavior. Obviously few people are "completely incapable of good decisions or are the Chosen Of God" and no important decisions in life are "meaningless". It is, however, the case that most decisions don't matter all that much and that, when they do, people usual do a pretty good job without special training. But the real issue that you're missing is opportunity cost. Lots of people don't know how to read or do arithmetic. Lots of people can't manage personal finances. Lots of people need more training to get a better job. Lots of people suffer from addiction. Lots of people don't have significant chunks of free time. Lots of people have children to raise. Almost everyone could benefit from learning something but many people either do not have the time or would benefit far more from learning a particular skill or trade rather than Bayesian math and how to identify cognitive biases.
2handoflixue9yI'm not disagreeing with this at all. But given the option of teaching someone nothing or teaching them this? I think it's a net gain for them to learn how to change their mind. And I think most people have room in their life to pretty easily be casually taught a simple skill like this, or at least the basics. I've been teaching it as part of casual conversations with my roommate just because I enjoy talking about it.
1Jack9yBut that isn't the question. I think it is a net gain for a person to learn the arguments of Christian apologetics, that doesn't mean it is worthwhile for everyone to learn the arguments of Christian apologetics. Time is a limited resource. I've taught aspects of rationality to lots of people because I like talking about it too. But my friends and family have learned it as a side effect of doing something they would be doing anyway, having interesting conversations with me. Some of them are interested in things like cognitive biases and learn on their own. But we don't yet have anything here that makes dramatic differences in people's lives such that it is important they spend precious resources on learning it. ETA: That was a bit brisk of me. I think we just have different definitions of "worthwhile". :-)
0Normal_Anomaly9yIf something's being worthwhile or not is a major consideration in whether or not we are doomed, doesn't that make it worthwhile? OTOH, if you mean "If we are the same amount of doomed whether or not people learn to change their minds, then we are very doomed," you are right.
1handoflixue9yI think that concisely summarizes the point I was trying to make. Thank you! :)

I'm confused about Kolmogorov complexity. From what I understand, it is usually expressed in terms of Universal Turing Machines, but can be expressed in any Turing-complete language, with no difference in the resulting ordering of programs. Why is this? Surely a language that had, say, natural language parsing as a primitive operation would have a very different complexity ordering than a Universal Turing Machine?

1Oscar_Cunningham9yThe Kolmogorov complexity changes by an amount bounded by a constant when you change languages, but the order of the programs is very much allowed to change. Where did you get that it wasn't?
2printing-spoon9y(this is because all Turing-complete languages can simulate each other)
0klkblake9yI knew Kolmogorov complexity was used in Solomonoff induction, and I was under the impression that using Universal Turing Machines was an arbitrary choice.
1Oscar_Cunningham9ySolomonoff induction is only optimal up to a constant, and the constant will change depending on the language.

Testing nofollow on a link that contains 'lesswrong' somewhere but doesn't point to lesswrong.com.

0jefftk9yLessWrong does in fact fail to properly nofollow the link. I've reported it [http://code.google.com/p/lesswrong/issues/detail?id=286] to Trike.

I keep running into problems with various versions of what I internally refer to as the "placebo paradox", and can't find a solution that doesn't lead to Regret Of Rationality. Simple example follows:

You have an illness from wich you'll either get better, or die. The probability of recovering is exactly half of what you estimate it to be due to the placebo effect/positive thinking. Before learning this you have 80% confidence in your recovery. Since you estimate 80%, your actual chance is 40% so you update to this. Since the estimate is now 40%, ... (read more)

For actual humans, I'd look into ways of possibly activating the placebo effect without explicit degrees of belief, such as intense visualization of the desired outcome.

7JoshuaZ9yThis is an interesting idea but I'm skeptical that this would actually work. There are studies which I don't have the citations for (they are cited in Richard Wiseman's "59 Seconds") which strongly suggest that positive thinking in many forms doesn't actually work. In particular, having people visualize extreme possibilities of success (e.g. how strong they'll be after they've worked out, or how much better looking they will be when they lose weight, etc.) make people less likely to actually succeed (possibly because they spend more time simply thinking about it rather than actually doing it.). This is not strong evidence but it is suggestive evidence that visualization is not sufficient to do that much. These studies didn't look at medical issues where placebos are more relevant.

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/dec/22/health/la-he-placebo-effect-20101223

The human brain is a weird thing. Also, see the entire body of self-hypnosis literature.

3endoself9yAnother method to try is affirmations [http://lesswrong.com/lw/eg/what_i_tell_you_three_times_is_true/].
1Armok_GoB9yany data on if this is actually possible, and if so how to do it? Does it work for other things such as social confidence, positive thinking, etc.? It certainly SEEMS like it's the declarative belief itself, not visualizations of outcomes, that cause effects. And the fact so many attempts at perfect deception have failed seems to indicate it's not possible to disentangle [your best rational belifs] from what your "brain thinks" you believe. (... I really need some better notation for talking about these kind of things unambiguously.)
0atucker9yI'm skeptical as to how common it is for your beliefs to influence anything outside of your head, except through your actions. If your belief X makes Y happen because of method Z, then in order to get Y you only need to know about Z, and that it works. Then you can do Z regardless of X, because what you do mostly screens off what you think. If you can't get yourself to do something because of a particular belief, that's another issue.
0Armok_GoB9yNo, in humans this is not the case, unless you have a much broader definition of "action" than is useful. For example, other humans can read your intentions and beliefs from your posture and facial expression, the body reacts autonomously to beliefs with stuff like producing drugs and shunting around blood flow, and some entire classes of problems such as mental illness or subjective well being reside entirely in your brain.
0atucker9ySorry about my last sentence in the previous post sounding dismissive, that was sloppy, and not representative of my views. I guess my real issue with this is that I don't think that there's a 50% placebo, and disagree that the "declarative belief" does things directly. My anticipation of success or failure has an influence on my actions, but a 50% placebo I would imagine would work in real life based on hidden, unanticipated factors to the point that someone with accurate beliefs could say that "my anticipation contributes this much, X contributes this much, Y contributes this much, Z contributes this much, and given my x,y,z I anticipate this" and be pretty much correct. In the least convenient possible universe, there seems to be enough hacks that rationality enables that I would reject the 50% placebo, and still net a win. I don't think we live in a universe where the majority of utility is behind 50% placebos.
0Armok_GoB9yWhy does everyone get stuck on that highly simplified example that I just made like that so that the math would be easy to follow? Or are you simply saying that placebos and the like are an unavoidable cost of being a rationalist and we just have to deal with it and it's not that big a cost anyway?
0atucker9yMore the latter, with the added caveat that I think that there are fewer things falling under the category of "and the like" than you think there are. I used to think that my social skills were being damaged by rationality, but then through a combination of "fake it till you make it", learning a few skills, and dissolving a few false dillemas, they're now better than they were pre-rationality. If you want to go into more personal detail, feel free to PM.
-1pjeby9yTaboo "declarative". To me, it sounds like you're talking about a verbal statement ("declared"), in which case it's pretty obviously false. AFAIK, priming effects work just fine without words.
0Armok_GoB9yyea, bad choice of words. Maybe "explicit", "direct" or "first order" would work better?

Actually, you can solve this problem just by snapping your fingers, and this will give you all the same benefits as the placebo effect! Try it - it's guaranteed to work!

4handoflixue9yI've been doing this for years, and it really does work! (No, really, I actually have; it actually does. The placebo effect is awesome ^_^)

Relevant and amusing (to me at least) story: A few months ago when I had a cold, I grabbed a box of zinc cough drops from my closet and started taking them to help with the throat pain. They worked as well or better than any other brand of cough drops I've tried, and tasted better too. Later I read the box, and it turned out they were homeopathic. I kept on taking them, and kept on enjoying the pain relief.

0lessdazed9yProbably not. Try throwing a coin in a wishing well or lighting a dollar bill on fire for more effect. http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/299/9/1016.full [http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/299/9/1016.full]
-1Armok_GoB9y... Even YOU miss the point? guess I utterly failed at explaining it then. IF I could solve the problem I'm stating in the first post, then this would indeed be almost true. It might be true in 99% of cases, but 0.99^infinity is still ~0. Thus that is the only probability I can consistently assign to it. I MIGHT be able to self modify to be able to hold inconsistent beliefs, but that's double think and you have explicitly, loudly and repeatedly warned against and condemned it. I'm baffled at how I seem unable to point at/communicate the concept. I even tired pointing at a specific instance of you using something very similar in MoR.

... Even YOU miss the point? guess I utterly failed at explaining it then.

Eliezer is not "the most capable of understanding (or repairing to an understandable position) commentor on LessWrong". He is "the most capable of presenting ideas in a readable format" AND "the person with the most rational concepts" on LessWrong. Please stop assuming these qualities are good proxies for, well, EVERYTHING.

8wedrifid9yAgree. I wouldn't go as far as to say he was worse than average at understanding others but it certainly isn't what he is renowned for!
0Armok_GoB9yI though it was all just g factor + understanding of language.
2wedrifid9yNot quite. Having the right priors about other people's likely beliefs, patience and humility are all rather important. There are some people who I consider incredibly intelligent and who clearly understand the language that I basically expect to be replying to a straw man whenever they make a reply, all else being equal. (Not Eliezer.)
3Armok_GoB9yEliezer has always come of as having plenty of those as well.
2Jack9yWhat does this mean?
0shokwave9yEach one of his sequence posts represents a concept in rationality - so he has many more of these concepts than anyone else here on LW. (I just noticed there's some ambiguity - it's the largest amount of rational concepts, not concepts of the highest standard of rational. [most] [rational concepts], not [most rational] [concepts].)
-5Armok_GoB9y
3khafra9yIt would take an artificially bad situation for this to be the case. In the real world, the placebo effect still works, even if you know it's a placebo--although with diminished efficacy. But that's beside the point. More on-point is that intentional self-delusion, if possible, is at best a crapshoot [http://lesswrong.com/lw/je/doublethink_choosing_to_be_biased/]. It's not systematic; it relies on luck, and it's prone to Martingale-type failures. The HPMOR and placebo examples appear, to me, to share another confounding factor: The active ingredient isn't exactly belief. It's confidence, or affect, or some other mental condition closely associated with belief. If it weren't, there'd be no way Harry could monitor his level of belief that the dementors would do what he wanted them to, while simultaneously trying to increase it. Anecdotally, my own attempts at inducing placebo effects feel similar.
0Armok_GoB9yThe placebo effect works if your brain thinks that you think that it will work, if I understood things correctly. And yes, that I can't reliably self delude, and even if I could it would be prone to backfire, is exactly what causes this to be a problem. I'm decently sure that my brain does not store beliefs separately from confidence, affect, etc. I thoguh that was exactly the point of the dementor sequence; that it was an impossible paradox.
0shokwave9yThe supposed equivalent version in HP:MOR... (I do not wish to speak for anyone else - feel free to chime in yourselves) That scene was a clear example - to me - of TDT being successful outside of the prisoner's dilemma scheme. In a case where apparently only ignorance would help, TDT can transcend and provide (almost) the same power.
0Armok_GoB9yHuh? Maybe we're thinking of different scenes.
7Torben9yYour model assumes a constant effect in each iteration. Is this justified? I would envisage a constant chance of recovery and an asymptotically declining estimate of recovery. It seems more realistic, but maybe it's just me?
0Armok_GoB9yIt's a toy case, in reality the chance of recovery might be "0.2+0.3*estimate", but the same general reasoning applies and the end result is still regret of rationality.
5[anonymous]9ySpeaking of Omega setting up an isomorphic situation, the Newcomb's Box problems do a good job of expressing this. http://lesswrong.com/lw/nc/newcombs_problem_and_regret_of_rationality/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/nc/newcombs_problem_and_regret_of_rationality/] However, I also though of a side question. Is the person who is caught in a cycle of negative thinking like the placebo effect that you mention, engaging in confirmation bias? I mean, if that person thinks "I am caught in a loop of updates that will inexorably lead to my certain death." And they are attempting to establish that that is true, they can't simply say "I went from 80%/40% to 40%/20% to 20%/10%, and this will continue. I'm screwed!" as evidence of it's truth, because that's like saying "4,6,8" "6,8,10" "8,10,12" as the guesses for the rule that you know "2,4,6" follows. and then saying "The rule is even numbers, right? Look at all this evidence!" If a person has a hypothesis that their thoughts are leading them to an inexorable and depressing conclusion, then to test the hypothesis, the rational thing to do is for that person to try proving themselves wrong. By trying "10,8,6" and then getting "No, that is not the case." (Because the real rule is numbers in increasing order.) I actually haven't confirmed that this idea myself yet. I just thought of it now. But casting it in this light makes me feel a lot better about all the times I perform what appear at the time to be self delusions on my brain when I'm caught in depressive thinking cycles, so I'll throw it out here and see if anyone can contradict it.
1Armok_GoB9yThanks for restating parts of the problem in a much clearer manner! And yea, that article is why this problem is wreaking such havock on me, and I were thinking of it as I wrote the OP. I'm not sure why I didn't link it. However, I still can't resolve the paradox. Although I'm finally starting to see how one might start on doing so: formalizing an entire decision theory that solves the entire class of problems, and them swapping half my mindware out in a single operation. Doesn't seem like a very^good solution thou so I'd rather keep looking for third options. I don't think I understand the middle paragraph with all the examples. Probably because the way I actually think of it is not the way I used in the OP, but rather an equation where expectation must be equal to actual probability to call my belief consistent, and jumping straight there. Like so: P=E/2, E=P, thus E=0. Hmm, I just got a vague intuition saying roughly "Hey, but wait a moment, probability is in the mind. The multiverse is timeless and in each Everett branch you either do recover or you don't! ", but I'm not sure how to proceed from there.
4shokwave9yUpdating on the evidence of yourself updating is almost as much as a problem as is updating on the evidence of "I updated on the evidence of myself updating". Tongue-in-cheek! That is to say, the decision theory you are currently running is not equipped to handle the class of problems where your response to a problem is evidence that changes the nature of the very problem you are responding to - in the same way that arithmetic is not equipped to handle problems requiring calculus or CDT is not equipped to handle Omega's two-box problem. (If it helps your current situation, placebo effects are almost always static modifiers on your scientific/medical chances of recovery)
-1Armok_GoB9yDo you have a suggestion for a better decision theory, or a suggestion on how exactly I have misinterpreted TDT to cause my current problems? Knowing that MIGHT help, but probably not in practice. Specifically I'd need to know for every given instance of the problem a probability to assign which if it is assigned is also the actual chance.
3[anonymous]9yCan you see what an absurdly implausible scenario you must use as a ladder to demonstrate rationality as a liability? Rather than being a strike against strict adherence to reality. The fact that we have to stretch so hard to paint it this way, further legitimizes the pursuit of rationality.
-1Armok_GoB9yExcept I happen to, as far as I can tell, be in that "implausible" scenario IRL, or at least an isomorphic one.
3[anonymous]9yI mean no disrespect for your situation whatever it may be. I gave this some additional thought. You are saying that you have an illness in which the rate of recovery is increased by fifty percent due to a positive outlook and the placebo effect this mindset produces. Or that an embrace of the facts of your condition lead to an exponential decline at the rate of fifty percent. Is it depression, or some other form of mental illness? If it is, then the cause of death would likely be suicide. I am forced to speculate because you were purposefully vague. For the sake of argument I will go with my speculative scenario. It is very common for those with bi-polar disorder and clinical depression to create a negative feedback loop which worsens their situation in the way you have highlighted. But it wouldn't carry the exacting percentages of taper (indeed no illness would carry that exact level of decline based merely on the thoughts in the patients head). But given your claims that the illness exponentially declines, wouldn't the solution be knowledge of this reality? It seems that the delusion has come in the form of accepting that an illness can be treated with positive thinking alone. The illness is made worse by an acceptance not of rationality, but of this unsupported data which by my understanding is irrational. I am very skeptical of your scenario, merely because I do not know of any illnesses which carry this level of health decline due to the absence of a placebo. If you have it please tell me what it is as I would like to begin research now.
0Armok_GoB9yIt's not depression or bipolarity, probably, but for the purposes of this discussion the difference is probably irrelevant. I never claimed the 50% thing was ever anything other than a gross simplification to make the math easier. Obviously it's much more complicated than that with other factors, less extreme numbers, and so on, but the end result is still isomorphic to it. Maybe it's even polynomial rather than exponential, but it's still a huge problem.
2handoflixue9yCan you actually describe the scenario you really are in? I can think of ways I'd address a lot of real-world analogues, but none of them are actually isomorphic to the example you gave. The solutions generally rely on the lack of a true isomorphism, too.
0Armok_GoB9yI'd rather not, due to it being extremely personal and embarrassing as well as a huge weak spot.
2Pfft9yatucker wrote a Discussion post about this [http://lesswrong.com/lw/64t/foma_beliefs_that_cause_themselves_to_be_true/].
0Armok_GoB9yThanks! Finally something relevant! Now for the bad news: the parts about the solution are confusing and I can't figure out how I would apply it to my situation. Could someone please translate it to math?
1handoflixue9yhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/dec/22/placebo-effect-patients-sham-drug [http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/dec/22/placebo-effect-patients-sham-drug] It is also well worth noting that the Placebo Effect works just fine even if you know it's just a Placebo Effect. I hadn't realized it worked for others, but I've been abusing this one for a lot of my life, thanks to a neurological quirk that makes placebos especially potent for me.
1Armok_GoB9yYes, but you have to BELIEVE the placebos will help. In fact, the paradox ONLY appears in the case you know it's a placebo because that's when the feedback loop can happen.
2handoflixue9yI'm not aware of any research that says a placebo won't help a "non-believer" - can you cite a study? Given the study I linked where they were deliberately handed inert pills and told that they were an inert placebo, and they still worked, I actually strongly doubt your claim. And given the research I linked, why in the world wouldn't you believe in them? They do rationally work.
1Armok_GoB9yA placebo will help if you think the pill you're taking will help. This may be because you think it's a non-placebo pill that'd help even if you didn't know you were taking it, or because you know it's a placebo but think placebos work. If you were given a placebo pill, told it was just a candy and given no indication it might help anything, it wouldn't do anything because it's just sugar. Likewise if you're given a placebo, know it's a placebo, and are convince on al levels that there is no chance of it working.
2handoflixue9yRight. So find someone who will tell you it's a placebo, and read up on the research that says it does work. It'd be irrational to believe that they don't work, given the volume of research out there.
-4Armok_GoB9yfacepalmsDid you even read any other post in this thread?
2handoflixue9yQuite a few of them. You're being vague enough that I can only play with the analogies you give me. You gave me the analogy of a placebo not working if you don't believe in it; I pointed out that disbelief in placebos is rather irrational.
0Armok_GoB9yTrying to figure out if it's rational or not, and if so HOW it's rational so I can convince my brain of it, is exactly what the entire discussion is about starting from the first post here: http://lesswrong.com/lw/7fo/open_thread_september_2011/4r8q [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7fo/open_thread_september_2011/4r8q]
0lessdazed9yCan anyone think of a better thing to have said here?
0Morendil9yA single study is not sufficient grounds to believe in something, especially a proposition as complicated as "placebos work" (it may not sound complicated expressed in this way, but if you taboo the words 'placebo' and 'work' you'll see that there is a lot of machinery in there). See previous discussion here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3g6/study_shows_placebos_can_work_even_if_you_know/] and note my remarks [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3g6/study_shows_placebos_can_work_even_if_you_know/37wo] , I recommend reading the linked articles.
2handoflixue9yhttp://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/07/dangerous_placebo_medicine_in_asthma.php [http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/07/dangerous_placebo_medicine_in_asthma.php] for a second study, and one that explicitly addresses your concern of psychological vs health benefits (summary: placebos have no actual health benefits, they just manage the psychological side) Given Armok is looking for a psychological solution, this still seems relevant. There have been a number of interesting studies on placebo effects; whether it's the actual pill or just priming, it does have a well document and noted beneficial effect, and it seemed relevant to Armok's situation.
1Normal_Anomaly9yI think one way to avoid having to call this regret of rationality would be to see optimism as deceiving, not yourself, but your immune system. The fact that the human body acts differently depending on the person's beliefs is a problem with human biology, which should be fixed. If Omega does the same thing to an AI, Omega is harming that AI, and the AI should try to make Omega stop it.
0Armok_GoB9yWell, deceiving somehting else by means of deceiving yourself still involves doublethink. It's the same as saying humans should not try to be rational.
5Normal_Anomaly9yIt's saying that it may be worth sacrificing accuracy (after first knowing the truth so you know whether to deceive yourself!) in order to deceive another agent: your immune system. It's still important to be rational in order to decide when to be irrational: all the truth still has to pass through your mind at some point in order to behave optimally. On another note, you may benefit from reciting the Litany of Tarski: If lying to myself can sometimes be useful, I want to believe that lying to myself can sometimes be useful. If lying to myself cannot be useful, I want to believe that lying to myself cannot be useful. Let me not become attached to beliefs I may not want.
0Armok_GoB9yI know by brain is a massively parallel neural network with only smooth fitness curves, and certainly isn't running an outdated version of Microsoft Windows, but for how it's behaving in response to this you couldn't tell. I'm a sucky rationalist. :(
1gwern9yAn AI can presumably self-modify. For a sufficient reward from Omega, it is worth degrading the accuracy of one's beliefs, especially if the reward will immediately allow one to make up for the degradation by acquiring new information/engaging in additional processing. (A hypothetical: Omega offers me 1000 doses of modafinil, if I will lie on one PredictionBook.com entry and say -10% what I truly believe. I take the deal and chuckle every few minutes the first night, when I register a few hundred predictions to make up for the falsified one.)
0Armok_GoB9yThis entirely misses the point. Yes, you could self modify, but it's a self modification away from rationality and that gives rise to all sorts of trouble as has been elaborated many times in the sequences. For example: http://lesswrong.com/lw/je/doublethink_choosing_to_be_biased/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/je/doublethink_choosing_to_be_biased/] Also, LYING about what you believe has nothing to do with this. Omega can read your mind.
9gwern9yI was trying to apply the principle of charity and interpret your post as anything but begging the question: 'assume rational agents are penalized. How do they do better than irrational agents explicitly favored by the rules/Omega?' Question begging is boring, and if that's really what you were asking - 'assume rational agents lose. How do they not lose?' - then this thread is deserving only of downvotes. And Eliezer was talking about humans, not the finer points of AI design in a hugely arbitrary setup. It may be a bad idea for LWers to choose to be biased, but a perfectly good idea for AIXI stuck in a particularly annoying computable universe. Since I'm not an AI with direct access to my beliefs in storage on a substrate, I was using an analogy to as close as I can get.
0Armok_GoB9ySorry, I were hoping that there were some kind of difference between "penalize this specific belief in this specific way" and "penalize rationality as such in general", some kind of trick to work around the problem, that I hadn't noticed and which resolved the dilemma. And your analogy didn't work for me, is all I'm saying.
0RichardKennaway9yTo fully solve this problem requires answering the question of how the placebo effect physically works, which requires answering the question of what a belief physically is, to have that physical effect. However, no-one yet knows the answers to those questions, which renders all of these logical arguments about as useful as Zeno's proof that arrows cannot move. The problem of how to knowingly induce a placebo response is a physical one, not a logical one. Nature has no paradoxes [http://lesswrong.com/lw/if/your_strength_as_a_rationalist/].
0Armok_GoB9yThe first part is wrong, the second is obvious and I never said anything to contradict it. We don't need to know exactly how beliefs are implemented just approximately how they behave. Of coarse this is a physical problem and of coarse we don't know every detail enough to give an exact answer, the math can still be useful for solving the problem.
0RichardKennaway9yThe point of your post was that the mathematics you are doing is creating the problem, not solving it. I haven't seen any other mathematics in this thread that is solving the problem either.
0Armok_GoB9yHonestly, this discussion was to long ago for me to really remember what it was about well enough to discus it properly.
2RichardKennaway9yI have a couple of suggestions more constructive than my earlier comments. One is that according to a paper recently cited here, placebos can work even if you know they're placebos [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3g6/study_shows_placebos_can_work_even_if_you_know/]. The other is that if belief doesn't work for you, how about visualisation? Instead of trying to believe it will work, just imagine it working. Vividly imagine, not just imagining that it will work. This doesn't raise decision-theoretic paradoxes, and people claim results for it, although I don't know about proper studies. We don't know how placebos work, and "belief" isn't necessarily the key state of mind.
0Armok_GoB9yThat article was probably what caused me to notice the problem in the first place and write the OP. Visualization is probably the most promising solution, and even if it's not as strong as placebo might b worth exploring. My main problems with it is that there's still some kind of psychological resistance to it, and that I have no clear idea of what exact concrete image I'm supposed to visualize given some abstract goal description.
0[anonymous]9yCould you explain further what you think is wrong about Richard's analysis of the placebo effect?
0brazil849yI don't think it's a paradox, it's just that the perfect is sometimes the enemy of the good. Your brain has a lot of different components. With a lot of effort, you can change the way some of them think. Some of them will always be irrational no matter what either because they are impossible to change much or because there just isn't enough time in your life to do it. Given that some components are irretrievably irrational, you may be better off in terms of accomplishing your goals if other components -- which you might be able to change -- stay somewhat irrational.
0Armok_GoB9yThing is I can't consciously chose to be irrational. I'd first have to entirely reject a huge network of ideals that are the only thing making me even attempt to be slightly rational ever.
0handoflixue9yI challenge this assumption. I have a very well functioning, blissfully optimistic mindset that I can load when my rationality suggests that this ignorance is indeed my best defense. I wish I had the skill to understand how I reconcile this with the rational compartment in my mind, but the two do seem to co-exist quite happily, and I enjoy many of the perks of a positive outlook.
0Armok_GoB9yWell, I don't and I can't. And I strongly doubt I could ever learn anything like that no matter what.
0shokwave9yGiven that a human brain can do it, you are perhaps too confident. A proof of concept would be to edit your brain with neurosurgery.
3Armok_GoB9yI don't really count lobotomy as "learn".
3lessdazed9yAbout Williams syndrome, I have read in several places that language skills are not sub-normal despite having brain abnormalities in those areas because there is much less than normal development in generally spacial and math/logic type areas. Having less raw brainpower to devote to language, they make up for it by being more subconsciously "focused", though that isn't quite the right word. They can be above or below average with language, depending on how it balances out, "normal" abilities are something like an average. Also, such people are not naturally racist, unlike "normal" people. This is relevant for the aspie-leaning population here - non-neurotypial isn't inherently normative. I wonder what severity of Asperger's syndrome is required to be non-racist? I strongly suspect there is a level that would be sufficient.
4gwern9yLanguage-wise, it's kind of a mixed bag. How much do social things like sarcasm matter for 'language skills'? And how Williams syndrome leads to sociability and lack of racism is very interesting; following extract dump from https://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/08/magazine/08sociability-t.html?reddit [https://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/08/magazine/08sociability-t.html?reddit]
1NancyLebovitz9yIn re "natural racism": Has it been determined whether it's always about the same distinctions? In some places-- for example, Protestant vs. Catholic in Northern Ireland-- the groups look very similar to outsiders. Does "natural racism" kick in as young as American white-black racism?
2lessdazed9yWhy wouldn't it be about whatever distinctions the kids can perceive cleanly dividing the group? I don't really know. Here are some Discover articles that are relevant and have different implications: * Williams syndrome children show no racial stereotypes or racial fear [http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/04/12/williams-syndrome-children-show-no-racial-stereotypes-or-social-fear/] * They don't all look the same [http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2009/01/23/they-dont-all-look-the-same-could-better-facial-discrimination-lead-to-less-racial-discrimination/] * Racial bias weakens our ability to feel someone else's pain [http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/05/27/racial-bias-weakens-our-ability-to-feel-someone-else%E2%80%99s-pain/] Probably using those one could backtrack and find the actual research and the citations from it, etc. From the first article: Well, it was a good hypothesis. Not really sure what "signs of" means exactly.
0NancyLebovitz9yMy hypothesis is that which distinctions the kids find important are the result of adults' involuntary reactions to people from the various groups.
0lessdazed9yIt's possible it is the result of multiple factors. Inexposure leading to less ability to determine facial differences is a good guess. Glomming on to any difference regardless of culture is a good guess. Modeling adults is a good guess.
0shokwave9yI strongly doubt that no matter what I couldn't ever produce a lobotomy procedure anything like something you would mistake for learning.
4lessdazed9yAfter the fact, many changes in the brain would be justified by various possible resultant persons. This is a weakness of CEV, at least, I do not know the solution to the problem. Were you to become the most fundamentalist Christian alive from futuristic brain implants and lobotomies, you would say something like "I am grateful for the surgery because otherwise I never would have known Jesus," and you would be grateful.
0shokwave9yMy layman's understanding of CEV is that the preceding brain should approve of the results of the improvement. So I would have to fervently desire to know Jesus and somehow be incapable of doing so, for CEV to allow me being turned into a fundamentalist.
1lessdazed9yThe other side of the coin is that if we require such approval, where does that leave most of humanity? The most vicious 10% of humanity? How do we account for the most fundamentalist Christian alive in forming CEV? How do we account for people who think that beating their children for not believing in god is OK, and would even want their community to do the same to them if they didn't believe? I think the way you phrased it, "allow me being turned," was very good. Humans see a difference between causing and allowing to happen, so it must be reflected somehow in the first stages of CEV.
0Armok_GoB9yWhich was exactly my point.
0christina9yIf the placebo effect actually worked exactly like that, then yes, you would die while the self-deluded person would do better. However, from personal experience, I highly suspect it doesn't (I have never had anything that I was told I'd be likely to die from, but I believe even minor illnesses give you some nonzero chance of dying). Here is how I would reason in the world you describe: 1. There is some probability I will get better from this illness, and some probability I will die. 2. The placebo effect isn't magic, it is a real part of the way the mind interacts with the body. It will also decrease my chances of dying. 3. I don't want to die. 4. Therefore I will activate the effect. 5. To activate the effect for maximum efficiency, I must believe that I will certainly recover. 6. I have activated the placebo effect. I will recover (Probability: 100%). Max placebo effect achieved! 7. The world I live in is weird. In the real world, the above mental gymnastics are not necessary. Think about the things that would make you, personally, feel better during your illness. What makes you feel more comfortable, and less unhappy, when you are ill? For me, the answer is generally a tasty herbal tea, being warm (or cooled down if I'm overheated), and sleeping. If I am not feeling too horrible, I might be up to enjoying a good novel. What would make you feel most comfortable may differ. However, since both of us enjoy thinking rationally, I doubt spouting platitudes like "I have 100% chances of recovery! Yay!" is going to make you personally feel better. Get the benefits of pain reduction and possibly better immune response of the placebo effect by making yourself more physically and mentally comfortable. When I do these things, I don't think they help me get better because they have some magical ability in and of themselves. I think they will help me get better because of the posit
-1Armok_GoB9yWell, yea obviously it's a simplified model to make the math easier, but the end result is the same. The real formula might for example look more like P=0.2+(expectation^2)/3 than P=expectation/2. In that case, the end result is both a real probability and expectation equal to 0.215377 (source: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=X%3D0.2%2B%28X^2%29%2F3 [http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=X%3D0.2%2B%28X^2%29%2F3] ) Also, while I used the placebo effect as a dramatic and well known example, it crops up in a myriad other places. I am uncomfortable revealing to much detail, but it has an extremely real and devastating effect on my daily life which means I'm kind of desperate to resolve this and get pissed that people are saying the problem doesn't exist without showing how mathematically.
1GuySrinivasan9yYou're asking too general a question. I'll attempt to guess at your real question and answer it, but that's notoriously hard. If you want actual help you may have to ask a more concrete question so we can skip the mistaken assumptions on both sides of the conversation. If it's real and devastating and you're desperate and the general question goes nowhere, I suggest contacting someone personally or trying to find an impersonal but real example instead of the hypothetical, misleading placebo example (the placebo response doesn't track calculated probabilities, and it usually only affects subjective perception). Is the problem you're having that you want to match your emotional anticipation of success to your calculated probability of success, but you've noticed that on some problems your calculated probability of success goes down as your emotional anticipation of success goes down? If so, my guess is that you're inaccurately treating several outcomes as necessarily having the same emotional anticipation of success. Here's an example: I have often seen people (who otherwise play very well) despair of winning a board game when their position becomes bad, and subsequently make moves that turn their 90% losing position into a 99% losing position. Instead of that, I will reframe my game as finding the best move in the poor circumstances I find myself. Though I have low calculated probability of overall success (10%), I can have quite high emotional anticipation of task success (>80%) and can even be right about that anticipation, retaining my 10% chance rather than throwing 9% of it away due to self-induced despair.
-1Armok_GoB9ySounds like we're finally getting somewhere. Maybe. I have no way to store calculated probabilities other than as emotional anticipations. Not even the logistical nightmare of writing them down, since they are not introspectively available as numbers and I also have trouble with expressing myself linearly. I can see how reframing could work for the particular example of game like tasks, however I can't find similar workaround for the problems I'm facing and even if I could I don't have the skill to reframe and self modify with sufficient reliability. One thing that seems like it's relevant here is that I seem to mainly practice rationality indirectly, by changing the general heuristics, and usually don't have direct access to the data I'm operating on nor the ability to practice rationality in realtime. ... that last paragraph somehow became more of an analogy because I cant explain it well. Whatever, just don't take it to literally.
5Barry_Cotter9yI asked a girl out today shortly after having a conversation with her. She said no and I was crushed. Within five seconds I had reframed as "Woo, I made a move! In daytime in a non-pub environment! Progress on flirting!" My apologies if the response is flip but I suggest going from "I did the right thing, woo!" to "I made the optimal action given my knowledge, that's kinda awesome, innit?"
-1Armok_GoB9ythat's still the same class of problem: "screwed over by circumstances beyond reasonable control". Stretching it to full generality, "I made the optimal decision given my knowledge, intelligence, rationality, willpower, state of mind, and character flaws", only makes the framing WORSE because you remember how many things you suck at.
0Dorikka9yI think that humans can mentally self-modify to some extant, especially if it really really matters. If you really needed to be optimistic, you might be able to modify yourself to be such by significantly participating in certain types of organized religion. (This is a rather extreme example -- a couple minutes of brainstorming would probably yield ideas with (much?) lower cost and similar results, but it illustrates the possibility.) Expected utility maximizers are not necessarily served by updating their map to accurately reflect the territory -- there are cases such as the above when one might make an effort to willingly make one's map reflect the territory less accurately. The reason why expected utility maximizers often do try to update their map to accurately reflect the territory is that it usually yields greater utility in comparison to alternative strategies -- having an accurate map is (I would guess) not much of a source of terminal utility for most. ETA: Missing words. >.<
0Armok_GoB9yI might theoretically be able to do this, but it would involve rejecting the entirely of rationality and becoming a sophilist or somehting, so after recovery the thing my body would have become would not undo the modification and instead go intentionally create UFAI as an artistic statement or somehting. Ok, a slight exaggeration, but far less slight than I'm comfortable with.
2Dorikka9ySince you're likely the one who would benefit from it, hopefully you brainstormed for a few minutes before you decided that my "religion" approach was really the most effective one -- I just typed the first idea that popped in my head and seemed to work.
0Armok_GoB9yHuh? Not only was it just an example, but Sophilism is incompatible with every religion I know of. Anyway, I didn't brainstorm it for roughly the same reason I don't brainstorm specific ways to build a pepertum mobile. The way my brain is set up, I can't reject rationality in any single situation like that without rejecting the entire concept of rationality, and without that my entire belief structure disintegrates onto postmodern relativist sophilism. Similar but more temporary things have happened before and the consequences are truly catastrophic. And yea, this obviously isn't how it's supposed to work but I've not been able to fix it, or even figure out what would be needed to do so.
-1[anonymous]9yThe scenario you propose does seem inevitably to cause a rational agent to lose. However, it is not realistic, and I can't think of any situations in real life that are like this-- your fate is not magically entangled with your beliefs. Though real placebo effects are still not fully understood, they don't seem to work this way: they may make you feel better, but they don't actually make you better [http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/spin-city-placebos-and-asthma/]. Merely feeling better could actually be dangerous if, say, you think your asthma is cured and decide to hike down into the Grand Canyon. Maybe there are situations I haven't thought of where this is a problem, though. Can you give a detailed example of how this paradox obtrudes on your life? I think you might get more useful feedback that way.
0Armok_GoB9yMAYBE asthma is an exception (I doubt it), but generally, in humans the scenario it actually IS realistic exactly because outcomes are entangled with your beliefs in a great many and powerful ways that influence you every day. It's why you can detect lies, why positive thinking and placebos work, etc. Edit: realized this might come of as more hostile than i intended, but to lazy to come up with somehting better.
1[anonymous]9yI was really hoping for a detailed example. As I said, the evidence, though not unequivocal, does not indicate that placebos improve outcomes in any objective way.

The bitcoin market seems to be experiencing well-funded deliberate market manipulation. Someone who's good at economics should pick up some of that free money.

[-][anonymous]7y 0

Hello. I just signed up. I don't understand exactly the architecture of the site. Where can I post an idea, which is also a request for help, in developing a "revolutionary" computer program, for instance?

4Nisan7yThe current Open Thread [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/j0e/open_thread_november_8_14_2013/] would be a good place to do that. If you want to wait a day, there will be a new weekly Open Thread and you will see it at the top of the Discussion [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/new/] section. EDIT: Also, feel free to introduce yourself in the current Welcome Thread [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i4z/welcome_to_less_wrong_6th_thread_july_2013/].
-1[anonymous]7yWhat is this "new weekly Open Thread"; and how will it be called?
3Nisan7yAh, well, if you follow the link to the Discussion section, you'll see a list of the most recent posts, with the newest posts first. Currently, about halfway down the page, you can see "Open Thread, November 8 - 14, 2013". This is a link to what I called the current Open Thread. I expect that in the next 24 hours or so, a new post called "Open Thread, November 15 - 21, 2013" or something similar will appear at the top of the list.
0[anonymous]7yOK, thanks.
[-][anonymous]9y 0

Spam on the wiki.

I can't find the delete button. Who's authorised to delete stuff?

Should probably delete the account it was made from too.

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I got in a discussion with a philosophy grad student today, who told me that the question of whether thoughts were "just" patterns of neural flashes, or if there was something epiphenomenal going on, was still a serious open question. I'm really hoping that this is just a description of the current state of affairs in the philosophy world, and not the neuroscience world, but she seemed rather insistent on this point. This isn't actually considered an open question in neurobiology, right?

6antigonus9yIt isn't a question in neurobiology at all. If consciousness is epiphenomenal, then by definition you can't perform any experiment to detect its existence. And insofar as neurology is the attempt to discover the material composition of the brain and the causal structure of brain events, and epiphenomenalism holds that consciousness is immaterial and causally silent, well...
4wedrifid9yI made that mistake once too. Uh huh. No. It's crazy talk.
-3[anonymous]9yTautology.
0Vaniver9yI think the question here is not "is this an open question" but "are there people who disbelieve this?". I can imagine neurobiologists who cannot rule out epiphenomena about thoughts.
0MinibearRex9yTrue, I can imagine that as well. I guess my question was really more about prevalence. How common are these people?
0Vaniver9yI came across this [http://sites.google.com/site/gallantlabucb/publications/nishimoto-et-al-2011] in an unrelated discussion: Searching for something similar in Google Scholar might give you lots of sources to suggest to the grad student that most neuroscientists are reductionists.
4Jack9yThis is vague enough to not be at all inconsistent with epiphenomenalism.
[-][anonymous]9y 0

Suppose I have already read a few books about institutional microeconomics and evolutionary game theory and I wish to gain a solid grounding in mechanism design and then algorithmic mechanism design. What papers or books on these subjects would you recommend?

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Is it just me or is Aleister Crowley a pretty cool sanity memeplex?

0Craig_Heldreth9yYvain posted on this at length here. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/5r/crowley_on_religious_experience/] His link there is broken; he is referencing the introduction to Book 4. [http://www.amazon.com/Magick-Book-Liber-Aba-Bk/dp/0877289190/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1315925576&sr=1-1] It ain't just you. Go to your local Barnes and Noble and they will inevitably have a dozen Crowley titles. I still have his books but I don't meet up with his fans any more.

What's this SingInst House which I have heard about, which people go to, and it is exciting?

What's the Visiting Fellows program?

Is there some public list of people who've been on it, for verification purposes?

6Kaj_Sotala9yhttp://singinst.org/aboutus/visitingfellows [http://singinst.org/aboutus/visitingfellows] http://lesswrong.com/lw/1hn/call_for_new_siai_visiting_fellows_on_a_rolling/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1hn/call_for_new_siai_visiting_fellows_on_a_rolling/] http://lesswrong.com/lw/29c/be_a_visiting_fellow_at_the_singularity_institute/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/29c/be_a_visiting_fellow_at_the_singularity_institute/] http://lesswrong.com/lw/3fk/where_in_the_world_is_the_siai_house/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3fk/where_in_the_world_is_the_siai_house/] While the SIAI page says that "We are currently accepting applications for new Visiting Fellows", I'm under the impression that the program's no longer running.

Ok, my 'last 30 days' karma just dropped 100 over an 8 hour period. Now I'm trying to work out exactly why I need to be reminded that I must have written some awesome comments a month ago. :P

0wedrifid9yOk, now it is a 200 drop in the 30 days while the absolute increases by about 100. WTF was I doing back then? I didn't write a top level post. Must have been some sort of political drama that I lucked out and got on the popular side of.