Welcome to Less Wrong! (7th thread, December 2014)

by Gondolinian8 min read15th Dec 2014640 comments

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If you've recently joined the Less Wrong community, please leave a comment here and introduce yourself. We'd love to know who you are, what you're doing, what you value, how you came to identify as an aspiring rationalist or how you found us. You can skip right to that if you like; the rest of this post consists of a few things you might find helpful. More can be found at the FAQ.

 

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There's actually more than meets the eye here: look near the top of the page for the "WIKI", "DISCUSSION" and "SEQUENCES" links.
LW WIKI: This is our attempt to make searching by topic feasible, as well as to store information like common abbreviations and idioms. It's a good place to look if someone's speaking Greek to you.
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A list of some posts that are pretty awesome

I recommend the major sequences to everybody, but I realize how daunting they look at first. So for purposes of immediate gratification, the following posts are particularly interesting/illuminating/provocative and don't require any previous reading:

More suggestions are welcome! Or just check out the top-rated posts from the history of Less Wrong. Most posts at +50 or more are well worth your time.

Welcome to Less Wrong, and we look forward to hearing from you throughout the site!

 

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If there's anything I should add or update on this post (especially broken links), please send me a private message—I may not notice a comment on the post.

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Hi,

I am Falk. I am a PhD student in the computational cognitive science lab at UC Berkeley. I develop and test computational models of bounded rationality in decision making and reasoning. I am particularly interested in how we can learn to be more rational. To answer this question I am developing a computational theory of cognitive plasticity. I am also very interested in self-improvement, and I am hoping to develop strategies, tools and interventions that will help us become more rational.

I have written a blog post on what we can do to accelerate our cognitive growth that I would like to share with the LessWrong community, but it seems that I am not allowed to post it yet.

3James_Miller6yI look forward to reading your post.

New to the site. LW came to my attention today in a Harper's Magazine article "Come With Us If You Want To Live (Among the apocalyptic libertarians of Silicon Valley)" January 2015. I hope to learn about rationalism. My background includes psychology, psycho-metrics, mechanics, and history but my interests are best described as eclectic. I value clarity of expression but also like creativity and humor. I view the world skeptically, sometimes cynically. For amusement I often speak ironically and this, at times, offends my listeners when I fail to adequately signal it. I do not hesitate to apologize when I see that I have offended someone. Hello.

5dxu7yWelcome to Less Wrong! (Wow. So you came here after reading the Harper's article, huh? That's actually pretty surprising to me. It's only one data point, but I feel as though I should significantly weaken what I said here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ld1/open_thread_dec_8_dec_15_2014/bqq7] about the article. Color me impressed.)
5Capla7yWelcome!

Hey! <retracted because I changed my mind about the sensibleness of putting personal info on the internet and more people started recognising my name than I'm happy with>

9John_Maxwell6yI think it's a bit of a shame that society seems to funnel our most intelligent, logical people away from social science. I think social science is frequently much more helpful for society than, say, string theory research.
4John_Maxwell6yNote: I do find it plausible that doing STEM in undergrad is a good way to train oneself to think, and the best combo might be a STEM undergrad and a social science grad degree. You could do your undergrad in statistics, since statistics is key to social science, and try to become the next Andrew Gelman.
4Acty6yAs advice for others like me, this is good. For me personally it doesn't work too well; my A level subjects mean that I won't be able to take a STEM subject at a good university. I can't do statistics, because I dropped maths last year. The only STEM A level I'm taking is CompSci, and good universities require maths for CompSci degrees. I could probably get into a good degree course for Linguistics, but it isn't a passionate adoration for linguistics that gets me up in the mornings. I adore human and social sciences. I don't plan to be completely devoid of STEM education; the subject I actually want to take is quite hard-science-ish for a social science. If I get in, I want to do biological anthropology and archaeology papers, which involve digging up skeletons and chemically analysing them and looking at primate behaviour and early stone tools. It would be pretty cool to do some kind of PhD involving human evolution. From what I've seen, if I get onto the course I want to get onto, it'll teach me a lot of biology and evolutionary psychology and maybe some biochemistry and linguistics.
0ChristianKl6yWhile archaeology certainly seems fun, do you think it will help you understand how to build a better world?
2Acty6y--
4ChristianKl6yNo. The problem of building a state out of 10,000 people who's fasted way of transport is the horse and who have no math is remarkably different from the problem of building a state of tens of millions of people in the age of the internet, cellphones fast airplanes and cars that allow people to travel fast. The Ancient Egyptians didn't have the math to even think about running a randomized trial to find out whether a certain policy will work. Studying them doesn't tell you anything about how to get our current political system to be more open to make policy based on scientific research. I think cognitive psychologists who actually did well controlled experiments were a lot more useful for learning about biases and fallacies than evolutionary psychology. Most people in political science don't do it well. I don't know of a single student body that changed to a new political system in the last decade. I did study at the Free University of Berlin which has a very interesting political structure that came out of 68's. At the time there was a rejection of representative democracy and thus even through the government of Berlin wants the student bodies of universities in Berlin to be organised according to representative democracy, out university effectively isn't. Politics students thought really hard around 68 about how to create a more soviet style democracy and the system is still in operation today. Compared to designing a system like that today's politics students are slacking. The aren't practically oriented. If you are interested in rationality problems, there the field of decision science. It's likely more yielding then anthropology. Having a good grasp of academic decision science would be helpful when it comes to designing political systems and likely not enough people in political science deal with that subject. Are you aware that the American Anthropological Association dropped [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/10/science/10anthropology.html] science fro
4RichardKennaway6yIs that the system where everyone can vote, but there's only one candidate?
-2ChristianKl6yNo, that's not the meaning of the word soviet. Soviet translates into something like "counsel" in English. Reducing elections to a single candidate also wouldn't fly legally. You can't just forbid people from being a candidate without producing a legal attack surface. As I said, it's actually a complex political system that need smart people to set up. It's like British Democracy also happens to "democracy" where there a queen and the prime minister went to Eton and Oxford and wants to introduce barrier on free communication that are is some way more totalitarian than what the Chinese government dares to do. Democracy always get's complicated if it comes to the details ;).
1RichardKennaway6yIn English, "Soviet" is the adjectival form of "USSR". Never mind the word. What is the actual structure at the Free University of Berlin that you're referring to? And in 1968, did they believe that this was how things were done in the USSR?
-1ChristianKl6yBecause Soviets are a central part of how the USSR was organised. Copying on things were in the USSR wasn't the point. The point are certain Marxist ideas about the value of Soviets for political organisation. A system of of soviets, as I said above. There a lot of ideas involved. On the left you had a split between people who believe in social democracy and people who are Marxists. The FU Asta is Marxist. The people sitting in it are still Marxist even through the majority of the student population of the FU isn't and they don't have a problem with that as they don't believe in representative democracy. They also defend their right to use their printing press to print whatever they want by not disclosing what they are printing. By law they are only allowed to print for university purposes and not for general political activism.
2Acty6y--
3ChristianKl6yThe problem of studying people in the first villages is not only that their problems don't map directly to today. It's also that it's get's really hard to get concrete data. It's much easier to do good science when you have good reliable data. With 10,000 people you can solve a lot via tribal bonds and clans. Families stick together. You can also do a bit of religion and everyone follows the wise local priest. Those solutions don't scale well. You are likely becoming like the people that surround you when you go into university. You also build relationships with them. Going to Cambridge is good. Cambridge draws a lot of intelligent people together and also provides you with very useful contacts for a political career. On the other hand that means that you have to go to those place in Cambridge where the relevant people are. Find out which professors at Cambridge actually do good social science. Then go to their classes. Just make sure that you don't get lost and go on a career of digging up old stuff and not affecting the real world. A lot of smart people get lost in programs like that. It's like smart people who get lost in theoretical physics.
1Vaniver6yThe two are not mutually exclusive [http://lesswrong.com/lw/yj/an_especially_elegant_evpsych_experiment/].
2btrettel6yI agree wholeheartedly. A field like theoretical physics is much more glamorous to large number of intelligent people. I think it's partly signaling, but I'm not sure that explains everything. What makes the least sense to me are people who seem to believe (or even explicitly confirm!) that they are only interested in things which have no applications. Especially when these people seem to disparage others who work in applied fields. I imagine this teasing might explain a bit of why so many smart people work in less helpful fields.
7Acty6yI think to an extent, physics is more intellectually satisfying to a lot of smart people. It's much easier to prove things for definite in maths and physics. You can take a test and get right answers, and be sure of your right answers, so when you're sufficiently smart it feels like a lot of fun to go around proving things and being sure of yourself. It feels much less satisfying to debate about which economics theories might be better. Knowing proven facts about high level physics makes you feel like an initiate into the inner circles of secret powerful knowledge, knowing a bunch about different theories of politics (especially at first) just makes you feel confused. So if you're really smart, 'hard' sciences can feel more fun. I know I certainly enjoy learning computer science and feeling the rush of vague superiority when I fix someone's computer for them (and the rush of triumph when my code finally compiles). When I attempt to fix people's sociological opinions for them, there's no rush of vague superiority, just a feeling of intense frustration and a deeply felt desire to bang my head against the wall. Then there's the Ancient Greek cultural thing where sitting around thinking very hard is obviously superior to going out and doing things - cool people sit inside their mansions and think, leaving your house and mucking around in the real world actually doing things is for peasants - which has somehow survived to this day. The real world is dirty and messy and contains annoying things that mess up your beautiful neat theories. Making a beautiful theory of how mechanics works is very satisfying. Trying to actually use the theory to build a bridge when you have budget constraints and a really big river is frustrating. Trying to apply our built up knowledge about small things (molecules) to bigger things (cells) to even bigger things (brains) to REALLY BIG AND COMPLICATED things (lots and lots of brains together, eg a society) is really intensely frustrating . An
2btrettel6yI don't think that something being (more) mathematically rigorous explains all of what we see. Physicists at one time used to study fluid dynamics. Rayleigh, Kelvin, Stokes, Heisenberg, etc., all have published in the field. You can do quite a lot mathematically in fluids, and I have felt like part of some inner circle because of what I know about fluid dynamics. Now the field has been basically displaced by quantum mechanics, and it's usually not considered part of "physics" in some sense, and is less popular than I think you might expect if a subject being amenable to mathematical treatment is attractive to some folks. Physicists are generally taught only the most basic concepts in the field. My impression is that the majority of physics undergrads couldn't identify the Navier-Stokes equations, which are the most basic equations for the movement of a fluid. It could also be that fluids have obvious practical applications (aerodynamics, energy, etc.) and this makes the subject distasteful to pedants. That's just speculation, however. I'm really not sure why fields like physics, etc., are so attractive to some people, though I think you've identified parts of it. You do make a good point about the sense of completion being different in engineering vs. social science. I suppose the closest you could get in social science is developing some successful self-help book or changing public policy in a good way, but I think these are much harder than building things.
4Acty6yI think there's also definitely a prestige/coolness factor which isn't correlated with difficulty, applicability, or usefulness of the field. Quantum mechanics is esoteric and alien and weird and COOL and saying you understand it whilst sliding your glasses down your nose makes you into Supergeek. Saying "I understand how wet stuff splashes" is not really so... high status. It's the same thing that makes astrophysics higher status than microbiology even though the latter is probably more useful and saves more lives / helps more people - rockets spew fire and go to the moon, bacteria cells in a petri dish are just kind of icky and slimy. I am quite certain that, if you are smart enough to go for any field you want, there is a definite motivation / social pressure to select a "cool" subject involving rockets and quarks and lasers, rather than a less cool subject involving water and cells or... god forbid... political arguments. And, hmm, actually, not quite true on the last point - a social scientist could develop an intervention program, like a youth education program, that decreases crime or increases youth achievement/engagement, and it would probably feel awesome and warm and fuzzy to talk to the youths whose lives were improved by it. So you could certainly get closer than "developing some successful self-help book". It is certainly harder, though, I think, and there's certainly a higher rate of failure for crime-preventing youth education programs than for modern bridge-building efforts.
3btrettel6yTo be honest, I found QM to be the least interesting subject of all physics which I've learned about. Also, I don't think the features you highlighted work either. Fluid dynamics has loads of counterintuitive findings, perhaps even more so than QM, e.g., streamlining can increase drag at low Reynolds numbers, increasing speed can decrease drag in certain situations ("drag crisis"). Fluids also has plenty of esoteric concepts; very few people reading the previous sentence likely know what the Reynolds number or drag crisis is. Physicists, even astrophysicists, know little more about how rockets work than educated laymen. Rocketry is part of aerospace engineering, of which the foundation is fluid dynamics. Maybe rocketry is a counterexample, but I don't really think so, as there are a lot more people who think rockets are interesting than who know what a de Laval nozzle [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Laval_nozzle] is. Even that has some counterintuitive effects; the fluid accelerates in the expansion!
5Acty6yYou make me suddenly, intensely curious to find out what a Reynolds number is and why it can make streamlining increase drag. I am also abruptly realising that I know less than I thought about STEM fields, given I just kind of assumed that astrophysicists were the official People Who Know About Space and therefore rocketry must be part of their domain. I don't know whether I want to ask if you can recommend any good fluid dynamics introductions, or whether I don't want to add to the several feet high pile of books next to my bed... Okay - so why do you think quantum mechanics became more "cool" than fluid dynamics? Was there a time when fluid dynamics held the equivalent prestige and mystery that quantum mechanics has today? It clearly seems to be more useful, and something that you could easily become curious about just from everyday events like carrying a cup of tea upstairs and pondering how near-impossible it is not to spill a few drops if you've overfilled it.
6btrettel6yThe best non-mathematical introduction I have seen is Shape and Flow: The Fluid Dynamics of Drag [http://www.amazon.com/Shape-Flow-Fluid-Dynamics-Science/dp/B0007J6AA8]. This book is fairly short; it has 186 pages, but each page is small and there are many pictures. It explains some basic concepts of fluid dynamics like the Reynolds number, what controls drag at low and high Reynolds numbers, why golf balls (or roughened spheres in general) have less drag than smooth spheres at high Reynolds number (this does not imply that roughening always reduces drag; it does not on streamlined bodies as is explained in the book), how drag can decrease as you increase speed in certain cases, how wind tunnels and other similar scale modeling works, etc. You could also watch this series of videos on drag [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0rQ4F3f-Ic&list=PL0EC6527BE871ABA3&index=13]. They were made by the same person who wrote Shape and Drag. There is also a related collection of videos [http://web.mit.edu/hml/ncfmf.html] on other topics in fluid dynamics. Beyond that, the most popular undergraduate textbook by Munson [http://www.amazon.com/Fundamentals-Fluid-Mechanics-Bruce-Munson/dp/0471675822/] is quite good. I'd suggest buying an old edition if you want to learn more; the newer editions do not add anything of value to an autodidact. I linked to the fifth edition, which is what I own. I'll offer a few possibilities about why fluids is generally seen as less attractive than QM, but I want to be clear that I think these ideas are all very tentative. This study [https://www.princeton.edu/~mjs3/salganik_dodds_watts06_full.pdf] suggests that in an artificial music market, the popularity charts are only weakly influenced by the quality of the music. (Note that I haven't read this beyond the abstract.) Social influence had a much stronger effect. One possible application of this idea to different fields is that QM became more attractive for social reasons, e.g., the Matthew effe
4Acty6yOoh, yay, free knowledge and links! Thankyou, you're awesome! The linked study was a fun read. I was originally a bit skeptical - it feels like songs are sufficiently subjective that you'll just like what your friends like or is 'cool', but what subjects you choose to study ought to be the topic of a little more research and numbers - but after further reflection the dynamics are probably the same, since often the reason you listen to a song at all is because your friend recommended it, and the reason you research a potential career in something is because your careers guidance counselor or your form tutor or someone told you to. And among people who've not encountered 80k hours or EA, career choice is often seen as a subjective thing. It'd be like with Asch's conformity experiments where participants aren't even aware that they're conforming because it's subconscious, except even worse because it's subconscious and seen as subjective... That seems like a very plausible explanation. There could easily be a kind of self-reinforcing loop, as well, like, "I didn't learn fluid dynamics in school and there aren't any fluid dynamics Nobel prize winners, therefore fluid dynamics isn't very cool, therefore let's not award it any prizes or put it into the curriculum..." At its heart, this is starting to seem like a sanity-waterline problem like almost everything else. Decrease the amount that people irrationally go for novelty and specific prizes and "application is for peasants" type stuff, and increase the amount they go for saner things like the actual interest level and usefulness of the field, and prestige will start being allocated to fields in a more sensible way. Fluid dynamics sounds really really interesting, by the way.
0Gram_Stone6yAlso perhaps worth noting that the effect within the LW subculture in particular may have to do with lots of LW users knowing a lot about ideas or disciplines where there are a lot of popular but wrong positions so they know how not to go astray. Throughout the Sequences, before you figure out how to do it right, you hear about how a bunch of other people have done it wrong: MWI, p-zombies, value theory, evolutionary biology, intellectual subcultures, etc. I don't know that there are any sexy controversies in fluid mechanics.
1btrettel6yInteresting points. There are controversies in fluid mechanics, and they are discussed at great length in the field, but I don't know of any popular treatments of them. In particular, there a large number of debates centering around turbulence modeling which actually are extremely relevant to modeling in general. The LES vs. RANS debate is interesting, and while in some sense LES has "won", this does not mean that LES is entirely satisfactory. A lot of turbulence theory is also quite controversial. I recall reading a fair bit about isotropic turbulence decay in 2012 and I was surprised by the wide variety of results different theoretical and experimental approaches give. Isotropic turbulence decay, by the way, is the among easiest turbulence problems you could devise. The debate in turbulence about the log law vs. power law [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_wall] is a waste of time, and should be recognized as such. Both basically give you the same result, so which you use is inconsequential. There are some differences in interpretation that I don't think are important or even remember to be honest. Thinking about it, things like QM are a fair bit easier to explain than turbulence. To actually explain these things in detail beyond what I've mentioned would take a considerable amount of time.
3Good_Burning_Plastic6y"I am an old man now, and when I die and go to heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment. One is quantum electrodynamics, and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather optimistic." (Horace Lamb) (Indeed, today quantum electrodynamics makes correct predictions within one part per billion [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precision_tests_of_QED] and fluid dynamics has an open million-dollar question [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navier%E2%80%93Stokes_existence_and_smoothness].)
0James_Miller6yIf you consider finance a subset of social science then the U.S. puts a lot of its best and brightest there.
0ChristianKl6yHedge funds do manage to employ the best and brightest, on the other hand I'm not sure whether the same is true for the academic subject of finance.
0Lumifer6yFinance is not social science. I think it's more similar to engineering: you need to have a grasp of the underlying concepts and be able to do the math, but the real world will screw you up on a very regular basis and so you need to be able to deal with that.
0James_Miller6yBehavioral finance is supposedly a big thing.
1Lumifer6yTaking psychology into consideration doesn't make finance a social science any more than sociological factors make civil engineering a social science.
-5VoiceOfRa6y
5Gram_Stone6yI've studied Spanish for some time and would be happy to converse with you. I'm not sure if you only want to converse with native speakers. I've been wanting to learn how to talk about LessWrongian stuff in Spanish.
5Acty6y--
1[anonymous]6yYou seem legit. Also, wait, the #lesswrong IRC channel stopped being dead?
7Acty6y--
1Squark6yHi Act, welcome! I will gladly converse with you in Russian if you want to. Why do you want a united utopia? Don't you think different people prefer different things? Even if assume the ultimate utopia is unform, wouldn't we want to experiment with different things to get there? Would you feel "dwarfed by an FAI" if you had little direct knowledge of what the FAI is up to? Imagine a relatively omniscient and omnipotent god taking care of things on some (mostly invisible) level but doesn't ever come down to solve your homework.
5Squark6yP.S. I am dismayed that you were ambushed by the far right crowd, especially on the welcome thread. My impression is that you are highly intelligent, very decent and admirably enthusiastic. I think you are a perfect example of the values that I love in this community and I very much want you on board. I'm sure that I personally would enjoy interacting with you. Also, I am confident you will go far in life. Good dragon hunting!
3Acty6y--
-4Lumifer6yI wouldn't call it an ambush, but in any case Acty emerged from that donnybrook in quite a good shape :-)
-6VoiceOfRa6y
4Squark6yI sympathize with your sentiment regarding friendship, community etc. The thing is, when everyone are friends the state is not needed at all. The state is a way of using violence or the threat of violence to resolve conflicts between people in a way which is as good as possible for all parties (in the case of egalitarian states; other states resolve conflicts in favor of the ruling class). Forcing people to obey any given system of law is already an act of coercion. Why magnify this coercion by forcing everyone to obey the same system rather than allowing any sufficiently big group of people choose their own system? Moreover, in the search of utopia we can go down many paths. In the spirit of the empirical method, it seems reasonable to allow people to explore different paths if we are to find the best one. I used "homework" as a figure of speech :) This might be so. However, you must consider the tradeoff between this sadness and efficiency of dragon-slaying. The problem is, if you instantly go from human intelligence to far superhuman, it looks like a breach in the continuity of your identity. And such a breach might be paramount to death. After all, what makes tomorrow you the same person as today you, if not the continuity between them? I agree with Eliezer that I want to be upgraded over time, but I want it to happen slowly and gradually.
3Acty6yI do think that some kind of organisational cooperative structure would be needed even if everyone were friends - provided there are dragons left to slay. If people need to work together on dragonfighting, then just being friends won't cut it - there will need to be some kind of team, and some people delegating different tasks to team members and coordinating efforts. Of course, if there aren't dragons to slay, then there's no need for us to work together and people can do whatever they like. And yeah - the tradeoff would definitely need to be considered. If the AI told me, "Sorry, but I need to solve negentropy and if you try and help me you're just going to slow me down to the point at which it becomes more likely that everyone dies", I guess I would just have to deal with it. Making it more likely that everyone dies in the slow heat death of the universe is a terribly large price to pay for indulging my desire to fight things. It could be a tradeoff worth making, though, if it turns out that a significant number of people are aimless and unhappy unless they have a cause to fight for - we can explore the galaxy and fight negentropy and this will allow people like me to continue being motivated and fulfilled by our burning desire to fix things. It depends on whether people like me, with aforementioned burning desire, are a minority or a large majority. If a large majority of the human race feels listless and sad unless they have a quest to do, then it may be worthwhile letting us help even if it impedes the effort slightly. And yeah - I'm not sure that just giving me more processor power and memory without changing my code counts as death, but simultaneously giving a human more processor power and more memory and not increasing their rationality sounds... silly and maybe not safe, so I guess it'll have to be a gradual upgrade process in all of us. I quite like that idea though - it's like having a second childhood, except this time you're learning to remember eve
2Squark6yWe don't need the state to organize. Look at all the private organizations out there. The cause might be something created artificially by the FAI. One idea I had is a universe with "pseudodeath" which doesn't literally kill you but relocates you to another part of the universe which results in lose of connections with all people you knew. Like in Border Guards [http://gregegan.customer.netspace.net.au/BORDER/Complete/Border.html] but involuntary, so that human communities have to fight with "nature" to survive.
0g_pepper6ySort of a cosmic witness relocation program! :).
0hairyfigment6yThe following is pure speculation. But I imagine an FAI would begin its work by vastly reducing the chance of death, and then raising everyone's intelligence and energy levels to those of John_von_Neumann [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_von_Neumann]. That might allow us to bootstrap ourselves to superhuman levels with minimal guidance.
1ChristianKl6yWhy do you dream of doing Human, Social and Political Sciences?
1[anonymous]6yTo me it sounds like you're an intense, inspired person who wants to make a great impact and has a start at a few plans for doing it. Way to go!
1ChristianKl6yYou assume that studying politics in university tells you a good answer to that question. To me that doesn't seem true. If you look at a figure like Julian Assange who actually plays and make meaningful moves, Assange didn't study politics at university. Studying politics at Cambridge on the other hand will make it easier to become an elected politician in the UK. But that's not necessarily because of the content of lectures but because of networking. It quite often happens that young people don't speak to older more experienced people when making their decisions about what to study. As your goal is making a difference in the world, it could be very useful to ask 80,000 for coaching to make that choice: https://80000hours.org/career-advice/ [https://80000hours.org/career-advice/]You might still come out of that with wanting to go to the same program in Cambridge but you will likely have better reasons for doing so and will be less naive.
3Acty6y--
1ChristianKl6yGetting elected in the UK is certainly a valid move, but it comes with buying into the status quo to the extend that you hold opinions that make you fit into a major party. I think the substantial discussion about Liquid Democracy doesn't happen inside the politics departments of universities but outside of them. A lot of 20th century and earlier political philosophy just isn't that important for building something new. It exists to justify the status quo and a place like Cambridge exists to justify the status quo. Even inside Cambridge you likely want to spend time in student self-governance and it's internal politics.
4Acty6y--
4Journeyman6yTo some degree, the idea of a "Friendship and Science Party" has already been tried. The Mugwumps wanted to get scholars, scientists and learned people more involved in politics to improve its corrupt state. It sounds like a great idea on paper, but this [http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/02/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified_19.html] is what happened: According to this account, the more contact science has with politics, the more corrupted it becomes.
7Acty6y--
7ErikM6yI think you missed what I see as the main point in "What they might have considered, however, was that there was no valve in their pipe. Aiming to purify the American state, they succeeded only in corrupting the American mind." Not surprising, because Moldbug (the guy quoted about the Mugwumps) is terribly long-winded and given to rhetorical flourishes. So let me try to rephrase what I see as the central objection in a format more amenable to LW: The scientific community is not a massive repository of power, nor is it packed to the gills with masters of rhetoric. The political community consists of nothing but. If you try to run your new party by listening to the scientific community without first making the scientific community far more powerful and independent, what's likely to happen is that the political community makes a puppet of the scientific community, and then you wind up running your politics by listening to a puppet of the political community. To give a concrete relatable figure: The US National Science Foundation receives about 7.5 billion dollars a year from the US Congress. (According to the NSF, they are the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities [http://www.nsf.gov/about/], which suggests 30 billion federal dollars are out there just for basic research) The more you promote "Do what the NSF says", the more Congress is going to be interested in using some of those billions of dollars to lean on the NSF and other similar organizations so that you will be promoting "Do what Congress says" at arm's remove. No overt dishonesty needs be involved. Just little things like hiring sympathetic scientists, discouraging controversial research, asking for a survey of a specific metric, etc. Suppose you make a prediction that a law will decrease the crime rate. You pass the law. You wait a while and see. Did the crime rate go down? Well, how are you measuring crime
4Acty6yThankyou - this statement of the idea was much, much clearer to me. :) It seems like the solution - well, a possible part of one possible solution - is to make the social science research institute that everyone listens to have some funding source which is completely independent from the political party in power. That would hopefully make the scientific community more independent. We now need to make it more powerful, which is... more difficult. I think a good starting point would be to try and raise the prestige associated with a social science career (and thus the prestige given to individual social scientists and the amount of social capital they feel they have to spend on being controversial) and possibly give some rhetoric classes to the social science research institute's spokesperson. Assuming the scientists are rational scientists, this gives them politician-power with which to persuade people of their correct conclusions. (Of course, if they have incorrect conclusions influenced by their ideologies, this is... problematic. How do we fix this? I dunno yet. But this is the very beginning of a solution, but I've not been thinking about the problem very long and I am just one kid with a relatively high IQ. If multiple people work together on a solution, I'm sure much more and much better stuff will be come up with.)
-8Lumifer6y
-13VoiceOfRa6y

I'm a long-time user of LW. My old account has ~1000 karma. I'm making this account because I would like it to be tied to my real identity.

Here is my blog/personal-workflowy-wiki. I'd like to have 20 karma, so that I can make cross-posts from here to the LW Discussion.

I'm working on a rationality power tool. Specifically, it's an open-source workflowy with revision control and general graph structure. I want to use it as a wiki to map out various topics of interest on LW. If anybody is interested in working on (or using) rationality power tools, please PM me, as I've spent a lot of time thinking about them, and can also introduce you to some other people who are interested in this area.

EDIT: First cross-post: Personal Notes On Productivity (A categorization of various resources)

EDIT: I've edited the LW-wiki to make a list of LWers interested in making debate tools..

Hello all =)

I am reading LW more that one year. I organized book club meetups about HPMOR in Kyiv, Ukraine in past (https://vk.com/hpmor_meeting and https://vk.com/efficient_reading5)

Now i start to organization process of first general LW meetup in Kyiv, our google group: http://groups.google.com/d/forum/LessWrong-Kyiv

On the first meet we will discuss Daniel Kahneman`s "Thinking, Fast and Slow" book in addition to what we will do in the future =)

Please, if you can - give any useful suggestions about what and how first meetup must be done (i have read LW pdf file about how to organize meetups).

4[anonymous]6yHello there! I mean, here and there, too! I will do my best to come, although I have not read the book. Good luck!
2John_Maxwell6yAwesome! Note that you can advertise your meetup further using the LW meetup system [http://lesswrong.com/meetups/new/].
4Forux6yThanks, http://lesswrong.com/meetups/1fd [http://lesswrong.com/meetups/1fd] Done =)

Hi all, I'm new. I've been browsing the forum for two weeks and only now I've come across this welcome thread, so nice to meet you! I'm quite interested in the control problem, mainly because it seems like a very critical thing to get right. My background is a PhD in structural engineering and developing my own HFT algorithms (which for the past few years has been my source of both revenue and spare time). So I'm completely new to all of the topics on the forum, but I'm loving the challenge. At the moment I don't have any karma points so I can't publish, which is probably a good thing given my ignorance, so may I post some doubts and questions here in hope to be pointed in the right direction? Thanks in advance!

Hello and welcome! Don't be shy about posting; if you're a PhD making money with HFT, I think you are plenty qualified, and external perspectives can be very valuable. Posting in an open thread doesn't require any karma and will get you a much bigger audience than this welcome thread. (For maximum visibility you can post right after a thread's creation.)

6rikisola6yHi John, thanks for the encouragement. One thing that strikes me of this community is how most people make an effort to consider each other's point of view, it's a real indicator of a high level of reasonableness and intellectual honesty. I hope I can practice this too. Thanks for pointing me to the open threads, they are perfect for what I had in mind.
0Lumifer6yDo your algorithms require co-location and are sensitive to latency?
2rikisola6yHi Lumifer. Yes, to some extent. At the moment I don't have co-location so I minimized latency as much as possible in other ways and have to stick to the slower, less efficient markets. I'd like to eventually test them on larger markets but I know that without co-location (and maybe a good deal of extra smarts) I stand no chance.

Finally bit the bullet and made an account-- hi people! I've been "LW adjacent" for a while now (meatspace friends with some prominent LWers, hang around Rationalist Tumblr/ Ozy's blog on the sidelines, seems like everyone I know has read HPMOR but me), and figured I ought to take the plunge.

Call me Vivs. I'm in my early twenties, currently doing odd jobs (temping, restaurant work, etc.) in preparation to start a Masters' this fall. I'm a historian, and would loooooove to talk history with any of you! (fans of Anne Boleyn/Thomas Cromwell/Victorian social peculiarities to the front of the line, please) I've always been that girl who pays waaaaay too much attention to if the magic system is internally consistent in a fantasy novel and gets overly irritated if my questions are brushed off with "But magic isn't real," so I have a feeling I'll like the way this site thinks, even if I'm way out of the median 'round these parts in a lot of ways.

6[anonymous]6yHi! I just want to say I found Stefan Zweig's The World Of Yesterday really insightful about that. I used to think that kind of prudishness came from religion. According to Zweig, it was actually almost the opposite: it came from Enlightenment values, as in, trying really really hard to always act rationally (not 100% in our sense, but in the sense of: deliberately, thoughtfully, impassionately) and considered sexual instincts a far too dangerous, uncontrollable, passionate, "irrational" force, that is where it came from. Which suggests that Freud was the last Victorian, so to speak.
6VivienneMarks6yHi back! Actually, interestingly, some Victorian prudishness was encouraged by Victorian feminists, weirdly enough. Old-timey sexism said that women were too lustful and oozed temptation, hence why they should be excluded from the cool-headed realms of men (Arthurian legend is FULL of this shit, especially if Sir Gallahad is involved). Victorian feminists actually encouraged the view of women as quasi-asexual, to show that no, having women in your university was not akin to inviting a gang of succubi to turn the school into an orgy pit (this was also useful, as back then, there were questions on the morality of women). A lot of modern sexism actually has its roots not in anything ancient, but in a weird backlash of Victoriana.
2Lumifer6yLOL. To quote [http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/10/nobel-scientist-tim-hunt-female-scientists-cause-trouble-for-men-in-labs] Nobel Laureate Tom Hunt as of a couple of weeks ago:
5CellBioGuy6yI found that particular piece of stupidity particularly amusing since my field is upwards of 55 percent female (at my level - the old guard of people who have been in it since the 60s or 70s is more male) and I have worked in labs where I was the only man.
3Sarunas6yThis quote seems to have been intended as a joke and was taken out of context. A very flawed accuser: Investigation into the academic who hounded a Nobel Prize winning scientist out of his job reveals troubling questions about her testimony [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3141158/A-flawed-accuser-Investigation-academic-hounded-Nobel-Prize-winning-scientist-job-reveals-troubling-questions-testimony.html]
2[anonymous]6yOne therefore wonders at man/man, woman/man and woman/woman troubles, which statistically should account for the majority of academic, er, troubles.
0Jiro6yHe's asserting that most troubles between men and women fall into a particular category. It might be that man/man troubles rarely fall into that category, and because most of that category is missing, are less numerous overall.
4[anonymous]6yWell... Having once been infatuated with my supervisor and more than once reduced by him to tears even when my infatuation wore off, I can say this: It's not people falling in love with people that really reduces group output. Being in love I worked like I would never do again. It's people growing disappointed with people/goals, or having an actual life (my colleague quit her PhD when her husband lost his job, + they had a kid), or - God forbid! - competing for money. Now that's what I would call trouble.
0MaryCh4yJust noting here that I was wrong. I'm working 12 hr a day now (it's The Season), hate my current boss for doing less than he could and generally creating work out of thin air, and am still very much content not to be a housewife.
0Creutzer6yVery good point! It's a ubiquitous stereotype, but it's not a priori clear to me that workplace romance leads to a net decrease in productivity, and I haven't seen real evidence for it. Google Scholar yielded nothing, it either ignores the search word "productivity" or just yields papers that report the cliché.
1VivienneMarks6yUggghhhh.... that guy. I may not be a scientist, but I saw red when I read that.
-7VoiceOfRa6y
1Epictetus6yFeminists of that era were practically moral guardians. In the USA, they closely allied with temperance movements and managed to secure the double victory of securing women's right to vote and prohibiting alcohol. I can't track the reference right now, but I recall reading a transcript of a Parliamentary debate where they decided not to extend anti-homosexuality legislation to women on the grounds that women couldn't help themselves.
-10VoiceOfRa6y
2Nornagest6yWelcome to LW! I suspect you'll find a lot of company here, at least as regards thinking in unwarranted detail about fictional magic systems.
1Lumifer6yWhat is this "unwarranted" thing you're talking about? X-)
1VivienneMarks6yThanks! I actually had a VERY long side discussion in an undergrad history course about whether stabbing a person possessed by a dybbuk creates a second dybbuk...
1[anonymous]6yDo you find D&D's cast-and-forget system consistent? It was borrowed from Jack Vance's Dying Earth novels, but those felt really weird novels to me.
2VivienneMarks6yNo! I actually find D&Ds system super-frustrating, but then I hate having luck-based elements in magic systems. :P
[-][anonymous]7y 18

Wow, I'm so glad I stumbled onto slatestarcodex, and from there, here!!! You guys are all like smarter, cooler versions of me! It's great to have a label for the way my brain is naturally wired and know there other people in the world besides Peter Singer who think similarly. I'm really excited, so my "intro" might get a little long...

Part 1-Look at me, I'm just like you!

I'm Ellen, a 22 year old Spanish major and world traveling nanny from Wisconsin, so maybe not your typical LWer, but actually quite typical in other, more important ways. :)

I grew up in a Christian home/bubble, was super religious (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod), truly respected/admired the Christians in my life, but even while believing, never liked what I believed. I actually just shared my story plus some interesting studies on correlations between personality, intelligence, and religiosity, if anyone is interested: http://magicalbananatree.blogspot.com/2015/02/christian-friends-do-you-ever-feel.html The post is based almost entirely on what I've come to learn is called "consequentialism" which I'm happy to see is pretty popular over here. I subscribe to this line of thinking so much t... (read more)

7Alicorn7yThere's now a portal into the meatspace Bay rationalist community [http://www.bayrationality.com/] if this is something you're interested in.
3[anonymous]7yWow, you guys even play board games? Nice. Thanks!! I'll try to come to the Friday meetup next Friday!
6adamzerner7yThat is awesome! If you haven't heard of HPMOR, check it out here [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Methods_Of_Rationality_%28fanfiction%29]. Anyway, there's this great sequence where Harry teaches the ways of science to Drako Malfoy... it's great! And I think very worthwhile for a beginner to read. Eliezer talks about a lot of this in the Metaethics Sequence [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Metaethics_sequence], particularly in the post Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom [http://lesswrong.com/lw/s0/where_recursive_justification_hits_bottom/]. If you haven't already heard of it, check out the idea of terminal values [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Terminal_value]. Something tells me that you understand it (at least on some level) though. Anyway, Eliezer seems to say something about Occam's Razor justifying our intuitive feelings about what's moral. Personally, I don't really get it. I don't see how a terminal value could ever be rational. My understanding is that rationality is about achieving terminal values, not choosing them. However, I notice confusion and don't have strong opinions. Welcome :) LessWrong has had a huge positive impact on my life. I hope and suspect that the same will be true for you!
3[anonymous]7yThanks for the welcome!! I just read Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom, and it was perfect and super relevant, thanks. "What else could I possibly use? Indeed, no matter what I did with this dilemma, it would be me doing it. Even if I trusted something else... it would be my own decision to trust it." This is basically what I've been telling people who ask me how I can trust my own reason, but it's great to have more good points to bring up. All the posts I've read so far have been so clear and well-written, I can't help but smile and nod as I go. I'm going to start with the e-book, and once I finish that, I'll probably look into HPMOR! I've seen it mentioned a lot around here, so I figure it must be great, but um, should I read the original Harry Potter first? Growing up, I was never allowed to. I clicked the terminal values link, and then another link, and then another, and then another... then I googled what Occam's razor is... my questions about morality are still far from settled, but all this gives me a lot to think about, so thank you :)
2adamzerner7ySorry for the late reply. Glad to be of assistance! That seems reasonable. A thought of mine on the sequences: they could be a bit dense and difficult to understand at times. I think some version of the 20/80 rule [http://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-pareto-principle-the-8020-rule/] applies, and I'd approach the reading with this in mind. In other words, there's a lot of material and a lot of it requires a lot of thought, and so a proper reading would probably take many months. And it would probably take years to achieve true understanding. However, there's still a lot of really important core principles that you could get in a couple of weeks. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9203769 [https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9203769] Personally, I think that knowing the gist of the story is sufficient. I saw some of your other comments and see that you still have a lot of questions and are a bit hesitant to post here before doing more reading. I think that people will be very receptive to any sort of comments and questions as long as you're open minded and curious. And if you ever just don't want to say something publicly, feel free to message me privately.
3[anonymous]7yThanks! I'm 30% through now. I've really been enjoying them so far, going back to reread certain chapters and recommending others like crazy based on conversations about similar but far less articulate thoughts I've had in the past. Even without knowing much about the content of HPMOR, I'm looking forward to it already just for its having been written by the same author. Thanks for your offer, I will probably take you up on it some day! Although you're right that people here seem pretty receptive to honest questions. I asked a question in another thread a few days ago, about ambition vs. hedonism, an issue I've always wondered about...no replies so far, but I did get some "karma" so that felt nice, haha :)
2adamzerner7y30% through the Rationality book?!! WOW! I responded to your comment about ambition vs. hedonism.
1hairyfigment7yWait, what? Do you mean Simplified Humanism [http://www.yudkowsky.net/singularity/simplified/]? I hope that's more of a description than a full argument. One could perhaps turn it into an argument by showing that our root values come from evolution - causally, not in the sense of moral reasons - and making a case that you would not expect them to have exceptions in those exact places. Eliezer also makes a brief attempt to explain his opponents' motives. This may be true, but I don't think we should dwell on it.
1adamzerner7yHonestly I don't really know.
4JohnBuridan7yHi els! I just wanted to welcome you and perhaps start a discussion. I have lurked around the Less Wrong boards for years (three, I think, recently made a new account because I forgot my username) and there is a lot of helpful and exciting discussion going on here and so long as you communicate clearly even dissenting opinions are valued. You came from the jean-skirt Lutherans. I too came from a bubble, and I know it can be tough to find people around whom you feel comfortable talking about big questions like religion, metaphysics, and truth, and logic. But I believe once you start looking, you will find people who are curious about the world and want to increase their quality of life and mind too! I don't think atheism leads to nihilism. An atheist doesn't have to be a strict materialist! For example, logic probably exists as part of the universe's fabric whether or not humans are thinking or even exist. Yet logic is not made of brain matter or any material. It is mind-independent. So are all the qualities that help people achieve their goals, such as courage, perseverance, honest self-reflection, charity, or whatever else. These are part of the human universe, even though they aren't essentially made of stuff. Well that's my perspective. And I, like the other guys and gals here, am always up to discuss these topics further and try to deepen our understanding and practice of rationality. Hope you enjoy hanging around LW! Cheers!
3[anonymous]7yThanks for the welcome! :) You're right, so many great conversations taking place here! I feel like I'm going to be doing a LOT more reading before I really post anywhere else, but I look forward to lurking too. I guess when I think about nihilism, I don't necessarily think about strict materialism. That's an interesting point about logic being mind-independent though. I guess I just think about the simple definition of nihilism as meaninglessness. All my life, the "meaning" of life had come from Jesus, which in my mind, meant a relationship with God and eternity in heaven. Now, there's no afterlife. Is there still meaning? Do I even care what happens after I die? I think I do, but why? I could just go out and do more good than bad and enjoy my meaningless days under the sun; is it really worth the mental energy to think about all this stuff, and if so, why? I'm realizing one thing people love about Christianity is how easy it is, once you can get past the whole childlike faith thing.
3hairyfigment7yThis puzzled me, since it sounds a lot like the problem of evil. I take it you were describing the argument you lay out at the link? For completeness - since I'm about to bash Christianity - I should note that Paul does not write like he has even an imagined revelation on the subject of Hell. He writes as if people in the Roman Empire often talked about everyone going to Hades when they died, and therefore he could count on people receiving as "good news" the claim that belief in Jesus would definitely send you to Heaven. (Later, the Gospels implied that your actions could send you to Heaven or Hell regardless of what you believed. Early Christians might have split the difference by reserving baptism [https://books.google.com/books?id=oUFFAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA791&lpg=PA791&source=bl&ots=im53sXsCZN&sig=Lr8T4wGNjdtyeYfEJmC2lF2xAq8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=k_IJVeiNIIiXgwSn_oDACA&ved=0CEgQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=catechumen&f=false] for those they saw as living a 'Christian' life.) Clearly one can be a Christian in Paul's sense without believing in Hell. We don't know. I have some qualms about Richard Carrier's argument (eg in On the historicity of Jesus: Why we might have reason for doubt). But plugging different numbers into his calculations, I come out with no more than a 54% chance Jesus even existed. We can't answer every factual question; some information is almost certainly lost to us forever. This one seems fundamental enough that if people insist on the truth of miracles - and reports that you can move mountains if you have faith the size of a mustard seed - I don't know what to tell them. But besides directing people to mainstream scholarship (which by the way places the date of Mark after the destruction of the Temple), I can note that Mark inter-cuts the story of the fig tree with Jesus expelling the money-lenders from the Temple. The tree seems like a straightforward metaphor. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/fm/a_parable_on_obsolete_ideologies/bvcd] Then we have later Gospels openly
2[anonymous]7yOh, oops, I can see why that would be puzzling. But yeah, you figured it out. Do you really think my link was an argument though? A lot of people have accused me of trying to deconvert my friends, but I really don't think I was making an argument so much as sharing my own personal thoughts and journey of what led me away from the faith. You correctly point out that not all Christians believe in hell, but I didn't want to just tweak my belief until I liked it. If I was going to reject what I grew up with, I figured I might as well start with a totally clean slate. I'm really glad you and other atheists on here have bothered looking into Historical Jesus. Atheists have a stereotype of being ignorant about this, which actually, for those who weren't raised Christians, I kind of understand, since now that I consider myself atheist, it's not like I'm suddenly going to become an expert on all the other religions just so I can thoughtfully reject them. But now that my friends have failed to convince me atheism is hopeless, they're insisting it's hallucinogenic, that atheists are out of touch with reality, and it's nice (though unsurprising) to see that isn't the case. Okay, I know that I personally can have morality, no problem! But are you trying to say it's not just intuition? Or if I use that Von Neumann–Morgenstern utility theorem you linked, I'm a little confused, maybe you can simplify for me, but whose preferences would I be valuing? Only my own? Everyone's equally? If I value everyone's equally and say each human is born with equal intrinsic value, that's back to intuition again, right? Anyway, yeah, I'll look around and maybe check out CFAR too if you think that would be useful. Oh! I like that definition of nihilism, thanks. Personally, I think I could actually tolerate accepting nihilism defined as meaninglessness (whatever that means), but since most people I know wouldn't, your definition will come in handy. Also, good point about Gandhi. I had actually
2hairyfigment7yThe theorem shows that if one adopts a simple utility function - or let's say if an Artificial Intelligence has as its goal maximizing the computing power in existence, even if that means killing us and using us for parts - this yields a consistent set of preferences. It doesn't seem like we could argue the AI into adopting a different goal unless that (implausibly) served the original goal better than just working at it directly. We could picture the AI as a physical process that first calculates the expected value of various actions in terms of computing power (this would have to be approximate, but we've found approximations very useful in practical contexts) and then automatically takes the action with the highest calculated expected value. Now in a sense, this shows your problem has no solution. We have no apparent way to argue morality into an agent that doesn't already have it, on some level. In fact this appears mathematically impossible. (Also, the Universe does not love you and will kill you if the math of physics happens to work out that way.) But if you already have moral preferences, there shouldn't be any way to argue you out of them by showing the non-existence of Vishnu. Any desires that correspond to a utility function would yield consistent preferences. If you follow them then nobody can raise any logical objection. God would have to do the same, if he existed. He would just have more strength and knowledge with which to impose his will (to the point of creating [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halting_problem] a logical contradiction [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_jump] - but we can charitably assume theologians meant something else.) When it comes to consistent moral foundations, the theorem gives no special place to his imaginary desires relative to yours. I mentioned above that a simple utility function does not seem to capture my moral preferences, though it could be a good rule of thumb. There's probably no simple way to find out what
1[anonymous]7yThanks a lot for explaining the utility theorem. So just to be sure, if moral preferences for my personal values (I'll check CFAR for help on this, eventually) are the basis of morality, is morality necessarily subjective? I'll get to Crowley eventually too, thanks for the link. I've just started the Rationality e-book and I feel like it will give me a lot of the background knowledge to understand other articles and stuff people talk about here.
3Viliam_Bur7yIf "subjective" means "a completely different alien species would likely care about different things than humans", then yes [http://lesswrong.com/lw/sy/sorting_pebbles_into_correct_heaps/]. You also can't expect that a rock [http://lesswrong.com/lw/rs/created_already_in_motion/] would have the same morality as you. If "subjective" means "a different human would care about completely different things than me" then probably not much [http://lesswrong.com/lw/rl/the_psychological_unity_of_humankind/]. It should be possible to define a morality of an "average human" that most humans would consider correct. The reason it appears otherwise is that for tribal reasons we are prone to assume that our enemies are psychologically nonhuman [http://lesswrong.com/lw/i0/are_your_enemies_innately_evil/], and our reasoning is often based on factual errors [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hp/feeling_rational/], and we are actually not good enough at consistently [http://lesswrong.com/lw/l0/adaptationexecuters_not_fitnessmaximizers/] following our own values. (Thus the definition of CEV [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Coherent_Extrapolated_Volition] as "if we knew more, thought faster, were more the people we wished we were, had grown up farther together"; it refers to the assumption of having correct beliefs, being more consistent, and not being divided by factional conflicts.) Of course, both of these answers are disputed by many people.
-2TheAncientGeek7yThere is a set of reasonably objective facts about what values people have, and how your actions would impact them, That leads to reasonably objective answers about what you should and shouldn't do in a specific situation. However, they are only locally objective,..what value based ethics removes is globally objective answers, in the sense that you should always do X .or refrain from Y irrespective of the contexts, It's a bit like the difference between small g and big G in physics,
1Lumifer7yNope. It leads to reasonably objective descriptive answers about what the consequences of your actions will be. It does not lead to normative answers about what you should or should not do.
1[anonymous]7yOkay, I guess I'm still confused. So far I've loved everything I've read on this site and have been able to understand; I've appreciated/agreed with the first 110 pages of the Rationality ebook, felt a little skeptical for liking it so completely, and then reassured myself with the Aumann's agreement theorem it mentions. So I feel like if this utility theorem which bases morality on preferences is commonly accepted around here, I'll probably like it once I fully understand it. So bear with me as I ask more questions... 1. Whose preferences am I valuing? Only my own? Everyone's equally? Those of an "average human"? What about future humans? 2. Yeah, by subjective, I meant that different humans would care about different things. I'm not really worried about basic morality, like not beating people up and stuff, but... I have a feeling the hardest part of morality will now be determining where to strike a balance between individual human freedom and concern for the future of humanity. Like, to what extent is it permissible to harm the environment? If something, like eating sugar for example, makes people dumber, should it be limited? Is population control like China's a good thing? Can you really say that most humans agree on where this line between individual freedom and concern for the future of humanity should be drawn? It seems unlikely...
0Lumifer7yI'm the wrong person to ask about "this utility theorem which bases morality on preferences" since I don't really subscribe to this point of view. I use the world "morality" as a synonym for "system of values" and I think that these values are multiple, somewhat hierarchical, and are NOT coherent. Moral decisions are generally taken on the basis of a weighted balance between several conflicting values.
-1dxu7y1. By definition, you can only care about your own preferences. That being said, it's certainly possible for you to have a preference for other people's preferences to be satisfied, in which case you would be (indirectly) caring about the preferences of others. 2. The question of whether humans all value the same thing is a controversial one. Most Friendly AI theorists believe, however, that the answer is "yes", at least if you extrapolate their preferences far enough. For more details, take a look at Coherent Extrapolated Volition [http://intelligence.org/files/CEV.pdf].
0[anonymous]7y1. Okay, that makes sense, but does this mean you can't say someone else did something wrong, unless he was acting inconsistently with his personal preferences? 2. Ah, okay, I've been reading most hyperlinks here, but that one looks pretty long, so I will come back to it after I finish Rationality (or maybe my question will even be answered later on in the book...)
0hairyfigment7yThat is definitely not the idea behind CEV, though it may reflect the idea that a sizable majority will mostly share the same values under extrapolation.
-1seer7yDo they have any arguments for this besides wishful thinking?
1hairyfigment7yI told him "they" assume no such thing - his own link is full of talk about how to deal with disagreements.
-2seer7yYes, I've read most of the arguments, they strike me as highly speculative and hand-wavy.
0hairyfigment7yThis is an impressive failure to respond to what I said, which again was that you asked for an explanation of false data. "Most Friendly AI theorists" do not appear to think that extrapolation will bring all human values into agreement, so I don't know what "arguments" you refer to or even what you think they seek to establish. Certainly the link above has Eliezer assuming the opposite (at least for the purpose of safety-conscious engineering). ETA: This [http://lesswrong.com/lw/le5/welcome_to_less_wrong_7th_thread_december_2014/c6yi] is the link to the full sub-thread. Note my response to dxu.
0TheAncientGeek7yIs that a fact? It's true that the theories often discussed here , utilitarianism and so in, don't solve the motivation problem, but that doesn't mean no theory does,
0TheAncientGeek7yNot necessarily subjective, in the sense that "what should I do in situation X" necessarily lacks an objective answer. Even if you treat all value as morally relevant, and you certain dont have to, there is a set of reasonably objective facts about what values people have, and how your actions would impact them, That leads to reasonably objective answers about what you should and shouldn't do in a specific situation. However, they are only locally objective,..
3orthonormal7yThere's also a Less Wrong meetup group in Madison [http://groups.google.com/group/lesswrong-madison], if you still live in Wisconsin! (They also play lots of board games.)
1[anonymous]7yThanks! I'm from Janesville, so not far from Madison. Maybe I'll stop in next time I'm home for Christmas break!
2Gunnar_Zarncke7yYou are awesome! I wish I could radiate only half as much enthusiasm and happiness. Even though I feel it - I just can't render it as much. I plan to learn from you in this regard! You are welcome. I will also try to answer your questions. Some of them I ponderd myself [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ii5/baseline_of_my_opinion_on_lw_topics/] and arrived at some answers. But then I had more time. I have a comparable background and I have a deep interest in children so you may also find my ressources for parents [http://lesswrong.com/user/Gunnar_Zarncke/] of interest. But now to your questions: Awesome. But it can be explained by the presence of memes in real-life christian culture that regulate such actions as misguided. See Reason as memetic immune disorder [http://lesswrong.com/lw/18b/reason_as_memetic_immune_disorder/]. The Jesus Seminar [http://www.westarinstitute.org/projects/the-jesus-seminar/] may have answers of the kind you desire. If a historical Jesus can be found by taking the bible as historcal evidence instead of sacred text, then look there. The Jesus Seminar has been heavily criticised (in part legitimately so) but it may provide the counter-balance to your already known facts. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Seminar [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Seminar] Well. What do you mean by "how"? By which social process does moral exist? Or due to which psychological process? The spiritual process apparently is out of business because it is ungrounded. There was a Main post with nice graphs about it that I can't find. You might also want to replace the question with "why do I think that I have morality?" No. Atheism does remove one set of symbol-behavior-chains in your mind, yes. But a complex mind will most likely lock into another better grounded set of symbol-behavior-chains that is not nihilistic but - depending on your emotional setup - somehow connected to terminal values and acting on that. "symbol-behavior-chains" is my ad-hoc term
0[anonymous]7yThanks for your reply :) You seem to radiate plenty of enthusiasm to me! I'll check out your links and save the Jesus seminar stuff for later; I'm going to finish the rationality ebook and then researching historical Jesus will be my next project, but it looks like a good resource! As for your questions...when I wrote this original post, by "how" I was still hoping that some sort of objective morality might exist... one not related to the human subject (a hope I now see as kind of silly but maybe natural so soon after my deconversion). I was hoping for some solid rules to follow that would always lead to good outcomes and never cause any emotional disturbance, but I've come to accept that things are just a bit more complicated than that in the real world...
2Viliam_Bur7yMy two cents: Who cares? Okay you obviously do, but why? If the religion is false and reports of miracles are lies, is there really an impotant difference between a) "Yes, once there was a person called Jesus, but almost everything that Bible attributes to him is completely made up" and b) "No, everything about Jesus is completely made up"? In other words, if I tell you that my uncle Joe is the true god and performs thousand miracles every thursday, why would you care about whether a) I have a perfectly ordinary, non-divine, non-magical uncle called Joe, and I only lied about his divinity and miracles, or b) actually I lied even about having an uncle called Joe? What difference would it make and why? Because it was written by people who had an agenda to "prove" that they are the good ones and the divinely chosen ones? Maybe even because it contains magic? I don't fully trust even historical books written recently. It can be funny to read history textbooks written by two countries which had conflicts recently; how each of them describes the events somewhat differently. And today's historical books are much more trustworthy than the old ones, because today people are literate, they are allowed to read and compare the competing books, they are allowed to criticize without getting killed immediately. Sorry for the offensive comparison, but trusting Bible's historical accuracy would be as if in the parallel universe Hitler would win the war, then he would write his own historical book about what "really happened" and make it a mandatory textbook for everyone... and then a few thousand years later people would trust his every written word to be honest and accurate. Exactly. You already know what you care about. Atheism simply means there is no higher boss who could tell you "actually, you should like this and hate that, because I said so", and you would have to shut up and obey. On the other hand; people can be wrong about their preferences, especially when their
1[anonymous]7yThanks for replying! Why do I care about Historical Jesus? I actually wouldn't, I guess, except that I absolutely need to have a really well thought out answer to this question in order to maintain the respect of friends and family, some of whom credit Historical Jesus as one of the top reasons for their faith. Good point about the authors being biased, thanks, no offense taken! I still don't like when people say miracles/magic definitively prove the Bible wrong though, since if a God higher than our understanding were to exist, of course he could do magic when he felt like it. Still, based on our understanding of the world, there is no good reason/evidence at all to believe in such a God. I got the Rationality ebook, and it is great! Sooo well-written, well-organized, and well thought out! I just started today and am already on the section "Belief in Belief." I love it so much so far that it's a page-turner for me as much as my favorite suspense/fantasy novels. Definitely worth sharing and going back to read and re-read :)

I absolutely need to have a really well thought out answer to this question in order to maintain the respect of friends and family, some of whom credit Historical Jesus as one of the top reasons for their faith.

Yep. On the social level I get it, but on another level, it's a trap.

The trap works approximately like this: "I will allow you not to believe in my bullshit, but only if you give me a free check to bother you with as many questions as I want about my bullshit, and you have to explore all of these questions seriously, give me a satisfactory answer, and of course I am allowed to respond by giving you even more questions".

If you agree on this, you have de facto agreed that the other side is allowed to waste unlimited amounts of your time and attention, as a de facto punishment for not believing their bullshit. -- Today you are asked to make to make a well-researched opinion about Historical Jesus, which of course would take a few weeks or months to do a really serious historical research; and tomorrow it will be either something new, e.g. a well-researched opinion about the history of the Church, or about the history of Crusades, or about the history of Inquisition... (read more)

2[anonymous]7yGood point, thanks!! I can't get too caught up in this; there are things I'd rather be learning about, so I need a limit. I'd like to think I can win, though, but this is probably just self-anchoring fallacy (I'm learning!) Just because I would have been swayed by an absence of positive evidence doesn't mean everyone will be, even people who seem decently smart and open-minded with a high view of reason, like my old track coach and religion teacher. I just made a deal though, that I would read any book of his choice about the Historical Jesus (something I probably would have done anyway!) if he reads Rationality: AI to Zombies :)
4Lumifer7yBe careful about distinguishing two very different propositions: (1) There was a preacher named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in a certain time in a certain place. (2) Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead and was the Son of God. Specifically, evidence in favor of (1) usually has nothing to do (2).
4Good_Burning_Plastic7yThat doesn't sound quite right to me, at least if you mean "nothing" literally", given that not-(1) logically implies not-(2). I think the much smaller posterior probability of (2) than (1) has more to do with the much smaller prior than with the evidence.
0Lumifer7yA fair point, though "normal" people have a strong tendency to jump from "not-(1) logically implies not-(2)" to "therefore (1) implies (2)".
1[anonymous]7yNo worries, I knew what you meant. I am pretty good at logic though, so no need to worry about illogical jumps here. I may not have very much background knowledge about terminology or history or science or anything (yet), and I may not be a very articulate writer (yet), but the one thing I can usually do very well is think clearly. I am even feeling a bit smug after finding the mammography Bayesian reasoning problem [http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=13156] that apparently only 15% of doctors get correct to be easy and obvious. :)
0dxu7yAh, yes, the ever-popular fallacy of the inverse [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denying_the_antecedent].
2Gram_Stone7yIf these are the questions weighing heavily on your mind, then you would probably enjoy Gary Drescher's Good and Real [http://www.amazon.com/Good-Real-Demystifying-Paradoxes-Bradford/dp/0262042339/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426923827&sr=8-1&keywords=good+and+real] . I suggest reading the first Amazon review to get a good idea of the topics it covers. It is very similar to some of the content in the Sequences. (By the way, if you purchase the book through that link, 5% goes to Slate Star Codex.) Also, the Sequences have recently been released as an ebook entitled Rationality: From AI to Zombies [https://intelligence.org/rationality-ai-zombies/]. (You can download the book for free in MOBI, EPUB, and PDF format if you follow the 'Buy Now' link at the bottom of that page and enter a price of $0.00. If you do this, it won't request any payment information. If you pay more than that, the money will go to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute [http://intelligence.org/].) I have found that Rationality is much, much easier to read than the Sequences. You may not yet have the background knowledge necessary to understand it, and if that's the case then you can always return to it later, but I think that the most relevant post on this topic is Where Recursive Justification Hits Bottom [http://lesswrong.com/lw/s0/where_recursive_justification_hits_bottom/]. It's chapter 264 in Rationality. (That's a daunting number but the chapters are very short. Rationality is Bible-length but you can hack away at it one chapter at a time, or more at a time, if you please.) To be frank, you're asking the Big Questions and you might have to read a bit before you can answer them. When I read that, I'm reminded of something that Luke Muehlhauser, a prominent LessWrong user and former devout Christian, once wrote [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7dy/a_rationalists_tale/]: As you said yourself, "Yay tolerance of ambiguity!" Although their beliefs are false, their experiences can certainly be real.
4[anonymous]7yThanks for the welcome!! Good and Real does seem like a good read. I'm going to read Rationality first, which I'm guessing will help me work through some of my questions, but I'll definitely keep that one in mind for later. Where Recursive Justification Hits Rock Bottom was really relevant, thanks for the link. I'm still digesting Occam's Razor, I think that was the only concept completely new to me. Thanks for the link to Luke's story. It seems like we went through the same difficult process of desperately wanting to believe, but ultimately just not being able to. I find it super encouraging that his doubts stemmed from researching the Historical Jesus, since that's one thing that my old high school track coach/religion teacher insists I have to look into. He claims no atheist has ever been able to answer any of his questions. The atheists I know all credit a conflict with science as the reason they left Christianity, and I credit...I don't even know, my personal thoughts, I guess... but it's great to know that researching history will also lead there. I'll have to go through the same resources he used so I can better explain myself to Christian friends. "Although their beliefs are false, their experiences can certainly be real. Even if there exists no God, that doesn't mean that the Presence-of-God Quale isn't represented by the patterns of neural impulses of some human brains." Thanks for that!! It does make me feel better. Hahaha, wow, I haven't even considered trying to convince others of the value of rationalism yet. Especially after my deconversion, I've been totally on the defensive, almost apologizing for my rationality. ("It's not my fault; it's the personality I was born with. If you guys really believe, you should feel lucky not just for having been born into Christian homes, but also, more importantly, for having been born with the right personalities for faith." and "You think my prayers for a stronger faith weren't answered because my faith wasn't
2Gram_Stone7yI just thought to point out that there's going to be a Rationality reading group [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/lx0/rationality_from_ai_to_zombies_online_reading/] ; basically, it's a planned series of posts about each Part in the book, where you have the opportunity to talk about it and ask questions. You clearly are very curious, (it's the only way you could survive so many hyperlinks) so it seems like just the thing for you. Just to give you words for this, and from what I read in the blog post that you linked to in your first comment (which I found very amusing), I think you're trying to verbalize that Christianity was inconsistent. You don't have to prefer consistency, but most people claim to prefer it, and apparently you do prefer it. (I know I do.) You didn't like it as a system because it was a system that said that God was perfectly benevolent and ridiculously selfish (though the second statement was only implicit) at the same time. You can always look at other subjects like science and history and come to the conclusion that religion conflicts with those things when it shouldn't; but you can also just look at religion and see how it conflicts with itself. I think that's what you did. I saw some of your other comments about meaning, and meaninglessness in the absence of God, and nihilism. Notice that when you ask "Does life have meaning in the absence of God?", everyone says that it depends on what you mean, offers some possible interpretations, and shares their viewpoints and conclusions on what it means. The simplest way to give you a clue as to some of the problems with the question is something that you wrote yourself: Vagueness is part of the problem, but there are other parts as well. Even though I've never been religious and therefore don't know what it's like to lose faith, worrying about "meaninglessness" is something that I dealt with. I promise that atheists aren't all secretly dead inside. (I actually used to wonder about that.) Ratio
2[anonymous]7yCool, thanks so much for mentioning the Rationality reading group!! I'm probably going to finish each section long before it's discussed, but I'll definitely go back to re-read and chat. I'll bookmark it for sure! So exciting! I will try to bribe my sister and maybe a few other people to participate as well (self-anchoring again, maybe, but I'll call it optimism, haha). Ooh, I like consistency, and Christianity is inconsistent. Christianity conflicts with itself. A God can't be both perfectly benevolent and ridiculously selfish. That's why I rejected it. Yeah, that sounds nice, thanks for the words. :) Good point about vagueness. I like this slatestarcodex post" The Categories Were Made for Man, Not Man for the Categories [http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/21/the-categories-were-made-for-man-not-man-for-the-categories/] Looking forward to parts N and P now too! And yeah, good point about the standards of evidence being too high. Still, right now my only info about Historical Jesus is based off a few articles I've read on the internet, and I just feel like after 22 years learning one thing, I can't just reject it and jump ahead to other things without being able to formulate basic, well-reasoned atheist answers to common Christian questions. I guess it's not just about maintaining my friends' respect, it's also about my own self-respect. I can't go around showing the improbability of every religion, but I want to be able to do so about the one I grew up in (maybe this is a cousin of the sunk-cost fallacy?). Luckily, all of the groundwork here has already been done by other atheists, it should just a matter of familiarizing myself with basic facts/common arguments.

Hello. My name is Tom. I'm 27 and currently working an a PhD in mathematics. I came to this site by following a chain of links that started with TVTropes of all things.

I have been a fan of rational thinking as long as I can remember. I'd always had the habit of asking questions and trying to see things from every point of view. I devoured all sorts of books growing up and shifted my viewpoints often enough that I became willing to accept the notion that everything I currently believe is wrong. That's what pushed me to constantly question my own beliefs. I have read enough of this site to satisfy myself that it would be worthwhile to make an account and perhaps participate in the community that built it.

0Daniel_Burfoot7yWelcome to LW. At one point in my life I would read a randomly selected passage from the Enchiridion before going to sleep every night.
0polymathwannabe7yWhich of them all [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enchiridion]?
0RichardKennaway7yPresumably that of Epictetus, the ancient Stoic.

Hi everyone!

My name is Rick, and I'm 29. I've been lurking on LW for a few years, casually at first, but now much more consistently. I did finally post a stupid question last week, and I've been going to the Austin Meetup for about a month, so I feel it's time to introduce myself.

I'm a physics PhD student in Austin. I'm an experimentalist, and I work on practical-ish stuff with high-intensity lasers, so I'm not much good answering questions about string theory, cosmology, or the foundations of quantum mechanics. I will say that I think the measurement problem (as physicists usually refer to the question which "many worlds" is intended to answer) is interesting, but it's not clear to me why it gets so much attention.

I come from a town where (it seems like) everybody's dad has a PhD, and many people's moms have them as well. Getting a PhD in physics or engineering just seemed like the thing to do. I remember thinking as a teenager that if you didn't go to grad school, you were probably an uneducated yokel. More importantly, I learned very early that a person can have a PhD and still make terrible decisions or have terrible beliefs. I also formed weird beliefs like "che... (read more)

Hello. New to the active part of the site, I've been lurking for a while, reading much discussions (and not always agreeing, which might be the reason I'm going active). I've come to the site thanks to HPMOR and the quest towards less bias.

I'm a (soon starting a PhD) student in molecular dynamics in France, skeptic (I guess) and highly critical of many papers (especially in my field). Popper is probably the closest to how I define, although with a few contradictions, the philosophy of what I'm doing.

I'm in the country of wine, cheese and homeopathy, don't forget it :)

Hey... I'm Babblefish. Having posted elsewhere I've been directed to this helpful Welcome thread.

How I got here? friends->HPMOR->Lesswrong blogs-> Project suggestion-> Forum.

Much as I'd love to claim I'm here to meet all you lovely folks, the truth is, I'm mainly here for one reason: I was recently re-reading the original blogs (e-reader form and all that), and noticed a comment by Eliezer something to the effect of "Someone should really write 'The simple mathematics of everything' ". I would like to write that thing.

I'm currently starting my PhD in mathematics (appears common here), with several relevant side interests (physics, computing, evolutionary biology, story telling), and the intention of teaching/lecturering one day.

Now... If someone's already got this project sorted out (it has been a few years), great... however I notice that the wiki originally started for it is looking a little sad, (diffusion of responsibility perhaps), and various websearches have turned up nothing solid.

So... if the project HAS NOT been sorted out yet, then I'd be interested in taking a crack at it: It'll be good writing/teaching practice for me, and give me an excuse to rea... (read more)

Greetings, y’all. I’m very excited to take the plunge into the LW community proper. I spent the last six months plowing through the sequences and testing the limits of my friends’ patience when I tried to engage them in it. Besides looking for people to talk to, I am beginning to feel a profound restlessness at not doing anything with all the new ideas in my head. At 27, I’m not a “level 1 adult” yet. I don’t really have something to protect or a purpose I’m dedicated to. I hope that by being active in the community will at least get me in the habit of being active.

My name is Jacob, I was born in the Soviet Union and grew up in Israel. My parents are scientists, my dad is probably top 10 worldwide in his field. I grew up playing soccer and sitting at dinner with students and scientists from around the world, I hope I actually did realize even as a teenager how awesome it was. I did my Bar Mitzva at a reform synagogue but God was never really part of our family conversation, I don’t think that I’ve said a prayer and actually meant it since I was 12 or 13. There are just enough Russian-speaking math geeks in Israel to form a robust subculture and I was at the top of it: winning natio... (read more)

0Gondolinian7yWow, just... wow. \salutes** Welcome, Jacob!

Hello, all!

I’ve lurked this site on and off for at least five years, probably longer. I believe I first ran into it while exploring effective altruism. Articles that had a definite impact on my thinking included those on anchoring, priming, akrasia, and Newcomb's problem. Alicorn's Luminosity series is also up there, and I keep perpetual bookmarks to "The Least Convenient Possible World" and "Avoiding Your Belief's Real Weak Points."

I earned a B.A. in history, worked for a couple years in a financial planning office, then ended up on the rather weird track of becoming a professional piano accompanist. It turned out to be a far more financially and logistically feasible career move than the other grand idea I attempted at the time (convincing GiveWell I'd be an awesome hire). So piano is what I'm doing now. (GiveWell is admittedly still my longshot/backburner plan B, but I'm focusing all professional development on the music end of things right now).

Some things I've got more than a passing interest in, which I think fit the LW ethos:

  • Taubman approach. Approach to keyboard technique (and prevention of repetitive-motion-injury) that got the recognition and int

... (read more)

I discovered lesswrong.com because someone left a printout of an article on the elliptical machine in my gym. I started reading it and have become hooked.

I'm a formally uneducated computer expert. The lack of formal education makes me a bit insecure, so I obsess over improving my thinking through literature on cognitive dissonance and biases, such as books from the library and also sites like this.

Nowadays I get paid to be a middle-manager at technology companies. Most of my career has been in Linux system administration as well as functional programming.

I'm a bit of a health nut. I adopted a whole-food plant-based diet (the "China Study" diet) because it seems most well supported in the literature, although a broad consensus on the topic has not emerged. I base this decision in part on my trust of experts with titles after their names, since I'm too out of my element to read and interpret most of the literature on my own. At the same time I have a personal anecdote that this works well, so those two are enough to convince me for now.

There are times when I find reading about rational thinking rather sobering. It's clear that we were born with an irrational, "defective", brain and that we would be so lucky if we could even make a small dent in improving our decision making. Improvements seem very hard to come by, I worry that all I'm really doing is learning to distrust my beliefs.

So that's a nutshell full. How's everyone else? :)

2pjeby7yWhat article was that?
2michael_b7yhttp://lesswrong.com/lw/xk/continuous_improvement/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/xk/continuous_improvement/]
2Lumifer7yAre you aware of Denise Minger's dissection of the China Study [http://rawfoodsos.com/the-china-study/]?
3michael_b7yYes. I spent a lot of time reviewing critiques of The China Study (TCS), including Minger's. At the end of it I came to the following conclusions. 1. Nutrition science is extraordinarily nonlinear 2. I'm definitely not qualified to deconstruct claims made about nutrition 3. TCS critics don't seem very qualified either, especially when compared to the qualifications of the people advancing TCS 4. There's no larger group of qualified people advancing a radically different approach So, those are my reasons. I admit they're not very satisfying. I'm spoiled by fields where, once you grok the formal proof you can be highly confident that the claim is correct. No such luck with something as squishy as nutrition, it would seem.
6IlyaShpitser7yGeneral advice: learn causal inference. Getting strong causal claims empirically is not so simple...
0Lumifer7yI disagree with your approach (basically, trust authority), but that's just me.
2dxu7yWhen you know next to nothing about the topic at hand and the only choice is to trust authority or to rely on your own, almost certainly flawed judgment, I'd go with authority.
0Lumifer7yWhen the topic is an important one, like health and nutrition, I'll go learn about the topic.
2michael_b7yI'm skeptical this is a great strategy for topics in general. Nutrition, for example, doesn't appear to be the kind of topic where you can just learn its axioms and build up an optimal human diet from first principles. It's far too complicated. Instead you need substantial education, training, experience and access, as well as a community that can help you support and refine your ideas. You need to gather evidence, you need to learn how to determine the quality of the evidence you've gathered, and you need to propose reasonable stories that fit the evidence. Since I haven't made health and nutrition my career most of these things will be hard or even impossible for me to come by. As such, my confidence in the quality of any amateur conclusions I come to must necessarily be low. So, the most reasonable thing for me to do is trust authorities when it comes to nutrition.
1Lumifer7yAnd rightly so :-) This is an approach that should be reserved for important topics. I think you're setting the bar too high. What you describe will allow one to produce new research and that's not the goal here. All you need to be able to do is to pass a judgement on conflicting claims -- that's much easier than gathering evidence and proposing stories. In nutrition, for example, a lot of claims are contested and not by crackpots. Highly qualified people strongly disagree about basic issues, for example, the effects of dietary saturated fat. I am saying that you should read the arguments of both sides and form your opinion about them -- not that you should apply to the NIH for a grant to do a definitive study. Of course that means reading the actual papers, not dumbed down advice for hoi polloi.
1dxu7yBy "learn", I assume you mean read existing literature on the topic. In the case of health and nutrition (and most other medical topics), high-quality literature is rather sparse, both because of frequently bad statistical analyses and the fact that practically no one releases their raw data--only the results. (Seriously, what's up with that?)
6Nornagest7yGiven that the experts in the field are precisely those learning from and producing that same literature, the fact that the literature is generally low-quality doesn't make me more inclined to trust them. (Though, as bad as academic nutrition science is, conventional wisdom and pop nutrition science seem to be worse.) It does make it exceptionally hard to gain a good understanding of the field yourself, though. Unlike Lumifer, I'd say the correct move, unless you are yourself a nutritionist or a fitness nerd or otherwise inclined to spend a large portion of your life on this, is to reserve judgment.
2dxu7yIn terms of statistics and data, yes, the papers they produce are fairly low-quality. In terms of domain-specific knowledge, however, I'd trust an expert over pretty much anyone else. That being said, I do agree with you here: Although I prefer trusting expert authority to making my own judgments on unfamiliar topics, gaining a good-enough understanding to figure out which experts to trust is still hard, especially with so many conflicting conclusions out there. This being the case, the strategy you propose--reserve judgment--is precisely what I do.
3Lumifer7yThat doesn't help you when experts disagree.
-2Lumifer7yYou can't -- you've got to eat each day :-/
3Nornagest7yAh, the old "choosing not to choose is itself a choice" move. Never was too convinced by that. You can reserve judgment on the theory while taking some default stance on the practical issue. Depending on where you're standing this might mean the standard diet for your culture (probably suboptimal, but arguably less suboptimal than whatever random permutations you might apply to it), or "common sense" (which I'm skeptical of in some ways, but it probably picks some low-hanging fruit), or imitating people or populations with empirically good results (the "Mediterranean diet" is a persistently popular target), or adopting a cautious stance toward dietary innovations from the last forty years or so (about when the obesity epidemic started taking off).
0Lumifer7yIt looks obviously true to me. Your stance is a choice nevertheless and it necessary implies a particular theory of nutrition (even if that theory is not academically recognized and might be as simple as "eating whatever everyone else eats can't be that bad").
2Nornagest7yIt's an option -- a point in a configuration space -- but not a random option. The default is, almost tautologically, a stable equilibrium, while in a sufficiently complicated system almost all possible choices may move you away from that equilibrium in ways you don't want. Nutrition is a very complicated system. Of course, its fitness landscape might be friendlier than I'm giving it credit for here, but I don't have any particular reason to assume that it is.
0Lumifer7yWell, of course. Where does the idea of a random choice even come from? If by "default" you mean "whatever most people around me eat", then no, not necessarily. Food changes. Examples would be the introduction of white rice (hence, beriberi) or mercury-polluted fish. There is also the issue of the proper metric. If you want to optimize for health and longevity, there is no particular reason to consider the "default" to be close to optimal. I certainly agree.
2Nornagest7yIf you don't have much good information about what the fitness landscape looks like -- for example, if the literature is opaque and often contradictory -- then there's going to be a lot of randomness in the effects of any choices you make. It's not random in the sense of a blind jump into the depths of the fitness landscape -- the very concept of what counts as "food", for example, screens off quite a bit -- but even if the steps are short, you don't know if you're going to be climbing a hill or descending into a valley. And in complex optimization problems that have seen a lot of iteration, most choices are usually bad. You can, of course, iterate on empirical differences, and most people do, but the cycle time's long, the results are noisy, and a lot of people aren't very good at that sort of reflection in the first place.
0Lumifer7yBut it's not that the choice is random -- it's that the consequences of choices are rather uncertain. Well, first it's well-bounded: there is both an upper bound on how much (in health and longevity) you can gain by manipulating your diet, and a clear lower bound (poisons tend to be obvious). Second, there is hope in untangling -- eventually -- all the underlying biochemistry so that we don't have to treat the body as a mostly-black box. Another thing is that there is a LOT of individual (or group) variation, something that most nutritional research tends to ignore, that is, treat it as unwanted noise. A major problem is that it's legally/politically/morally hard to experiment on humans, even with full consent.
1Lumifer7yAlso around the topic, not to mention that learning necessarily involves a fair amount of one's own thinking. I agree which makes relying of authority (and, usually, on mass media reinterpretations of authority) particularly suspect. I think the usual explanation is privacy and medical ethics, but my cynical mind readily suggests that it's much harder to critique a study if you can't see the data...
0[anonymous]7ySounds to me that you're trusting authority that just happens to be of a different sort.
0Lumifer7yNo, I do not. I actually read the papers and see if they make sense. One of my long-standing complaints is that in medical research no one releases the data -- it would be very useful to reanalyze it is a bit less brain-dead fashion.
0[anonymous]7yThen why'd you recommend Minger's criticism? Because as far as I can tell it doesn't make sense.
0Lumifer7yMakes a lot of sense to me. What is it that doesn't make sense to you?
0[anonymous]7yLet's start with the sturm and drang over Tuoli, I suppose. Why aren't they an obvious outlier?
1Lumifer7yUm, it is. To quote Minger Also, to continue quoting Minger,
0[anonymous]7yYet elsewhere [http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/06/23/tuoli-chinas-mysterious-milk-drinkers/]: [...] Or, you know, they're an insular minority with peculiar nutritional requirements.
2Lumifer7yYou said that Minger's criticism of TCS "doesn't make sense". Did you actually have anything specific in mind? I also don't see much problems with the passages you quoted.
2[anonymous]7yThey contradict each other. Why isn't Tuoli an outlier?
0Lumifer7yYou're quoting from the page which says right on top: You seem to be more interested in creating gotchas than in finding out what's actually happening in reality. I am sorry, did you miss that comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/le5/welcome_to_less_wrong_7th_thread_december_2014/bwrf] ? But if you want to pretend Tuoli doesn't exist, sure, you can pretend Tuoli doesn't exist. What next?
0[anonymous]7yI was kind of waiting for you to point that out. Notice it's a non-disclaimer anyway: In any case, I'm not using it as evidence for or against a particular diet. I'm using it as evidence of her research process. About a quarter of her criticism of TCS is based around Tuoli being an outlier, so it's interesting that she also thought that their diet didn't increase their rate of disease significantly, even before she found out the data was bad. It's a clear sign of motivated cognition. In general, you don't seem very good at ascribing motives to me. Recall you were the one that asked for an example of what I found confusing. No, I didn't. That's not even remotely close to what I said, and doesn't really have anything to do with the point at hand.
0Lumifer7yI don't believe this is true -- see this [http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/08/06/final-china-study-response-html/]. You still haven't made any specific objections against Minger's criticism of TCS . You did mention motivated cognition, did you not?
-2[anonymous]7y27 instances. Section 1.2, 1.4, 1.8, 2.2, 3.1, and of course 3.3. "A quarter" is about correct, but let's say "a fifth" if you'd like. She depends too much on the Tuoli data -- which she supposedly doesn't trust anyway -- to make her arguments.
0Lumifer7yI am going to call bullshit on that. You did a word search for "Tuoli" in a web page and that turned up 27 hits. That does not mean that there are 27 instances of using the Tuoli data to argue against TCS. Section 1.2, for example, explicitly points out that taking Tuoli data out makes some Campbell claims to have much less support in the correlation numbers. I think you're being dishonest. This conversation is over.
-3[anonymous]7yThen I'd advise in the future you not offer to provide clarification when you'd prefer to quibble and assume bad faith where none exists.

Hello LessWrongers! After discovering the blog and MIRI research papers through a friend (Gyrodiot ) a few weeks ago, I finally decided to register here. For I keep seeing fascinating discussions I want to be part of, and I also would like to share my ideas about IA and rationnalism.

Currently, I am a first year student in an french Engineering school in Computer science and applied mathematics. Before that, I was in "Classes Préparatoires" for two years, an intensive formation in mathematics and physics to pass engineering school contests. Even If it was quite harsh (basically 30 hours of classes + 5 hours exam + homeworks impossible to finish every week), it gave me some kicks to become a post-rigorous mathematics student. (post-rigorous being here the definition of Terence Tao : http://terrytao.wordpress.com/career-advice/there%E2%80%99s-more-to-mathematics-than-rigour-and-proofs/ )

For my interest, I am actually working with one of my teacher on a online handwriting OCR based on a model of oscillatory handwriting he developped. But we also explore the cognitive consequences of the model, mostly Piaget's idea of assimilation, which can be linked to modern discoveries ab... (read more)

0Gyrodiot7yWelcome :D Glad to see you there.

Hello. I’m Mark. I’m a 24-year-old software engineer in Michigan.

I found LessWrong a little over a year ago via HPMOR. I’m working through the books listed on MIRI’s Research Guide. I finished Bostrom’s Superintelligence earlier this week, and I’m currently working through the Sequences and Naive Set Theory. I’m not quite sure what I want to do after I complete the Research Guide; but AI is challenging and interesting, so I’m excited to learn more.

P.S. I’m a SuperLurker™. I find it very difficult to post in public forums. I only visualize the futures where future!Me looks back at his old posts and cringes. If you suffer similarly, I hope you will follow my lead and introduce yourself. Throw caution to the wind! Or, you know, just send me a private message (a simple “hey” will suffice) and maybe we can help each other.

Instead of cringing you can think "wow, I made a lot of progress since". It did the trick for me, but well, YMMV.

1Friendly-HI7yBe honest, do you really actually fear cringing when you re-read your stuff months or years from now? Sounds to me like an invented reason to mask a much more plausible fear: Looking foolish in front of others by saying foolish things. Well in case you do make a fool of yourself you always have the option of admitting "back then I was foolish in saying that and I have changed my mind because of X". In this communuty being able to do that is usually accompanied with a slight status gain rather than severe status punishment and ridicule, so no need to worry about that.
1John_Maxwell7yYou say you anticipate cringing... is that a correct anticipation? Do you currently find yourself frequently beating yourself up for things you've said or written? If so, maybe that's the bug you want to fix first. Reinterpretation can be a good strategy; maybe try to frame your past post differently. For example, despite whatever factors you might find make a post of yours cringeworthy, it seems likely that at least one person found it valuable, interesting, or at least amusing. Anyway, welcome!

Hello!

I’ve lived in Berkeley for about six years. My girlfriend is going to medical school so we’re going to be moving to Boca Raton, Florida (most likely) or Columbus, Ohio in less than a month. I’m sad to be leaving the Bay Area but thrilled to be with my girlfriend when she starts such an exciting chapter of her life. I’m also very fortunate that I can handle nearly all my business online.

I co-founded a startup devoted to making a web game with an old buddy of mine. This same guy introduced me to LW.

Critical thinking and debate has been a focus of mine since I was quite young so LW fit right into my interests. I’m very interested in instrumental/practical applications of rationality. I’ve been lurking for many years and finally decided to make an account to get over my fear of online embarrassment given my unfamiliarity with a lot of the lexicon and protocol on LW.

Some passions of mine are movies, seeking out novel experiences (examples are shooting an AK-47, judging a singing competition, and visiting Pixar), and martial arts.

I’m also interested in effective altruism and AI research but still have a lot of learning to do, especially in the latter.

1Benquo6yWelcome! You may want to check out some of AnnaSalamon's old posts for some things to try as far as applied rationality goes, if you haven't already. Have you been / are you interested in connecting with the Bay Area Rationalist or EA community while you're still here?
2JohnGreer6yThanks for the tip! I've read some of her posts but will look into the ones I've haven't. We're going to be moving in about two weeks and are fairly busy before so probably not going to be able to. I regret not going to a Berkeley Meetup while I had more time.

The person behind this account is not at all new to the Less Wrong community. He has read all of the sequences multiple times, as well as much of the output of many non-Eliezer figures associated with or influenced by LW, and has been around for more than half the time the site has existed. Suffice it to say he knows his stuff. He used to comment and then stopped for reasons which remain unclear.

The obvious question is, why the new account, especially since I'm not trying to hide who I was? I decline to answer.

Less Wrong is important to me. Reading the sequences caused in me a serious upgrade. LW inspired a lot of meetup groups, one of which I attend every week. It's not the group I wish I was attending, but it's better than the alternative: none. Things fall apart. Roko exploded. Vladimir_M vanished, Yvain seceded; many others of import including Eliezer have abandoned LW. They all have their reasons, some common and others not. There are forces, it seems, driving the best away, leaving behind a smattering of dunces.

I aim to turn the tide. Nate Soares didn't show up until 2013. Less Wrong is still at least theoretically a place that can attract good people. Less Wrong has been na... (read more)

Hello LW World!

I have been reading the writings of Eliezer Yudkowsky for about 2 years now, ever since a friend of mine introduced me to HPMOR. It continues to blow my mind that there is an entire movement and genre dedicated to reason. It's provided a depth of thought that I've always felt different from others for enjoying, and now I can happily say that there's a community for it.

I am currently an unemployed veteran and college dropout seeking to solve the financial problems which prevent me from currently completing my degree. I am halfway finished with an ultrasound tech school and I am also studying programming as a hobby. I'm proud of a lot of my work so far, from making the beginnings of an awesome game on Scratch to completing an advanced challenge on Hackerrank (technically it's incomplete, but it's only the timeout limit on large inputs that I have yet to find a solution for). I'm also learning web design skills on FreeCodeCamp where I have found very supportive mentors and hope to get a basic foot-in-the-door level of skills to gain employment.

What I REALLY wanted to do but failed at due to financial hardship is to work in neuroscience research. I'm more interested... (read more)

4John_Maxwell6yWelcome! I don't think there's an official rule about poetry. Speaking as a person with over 9000 karma, my intuition is that it'd be well received if it has some novel ideas/perspective and was linked to from an open thread.

Hello, my name is Daniel.

I've wanted to join the rationality community for a little while now, and I finally worked up the courage after a brief but informative discussion with Anna Salamon, CFAR's executive director (who was as kind as I was nervous).

I'm working on finishing up a B.S. in Electrical Engineering, and I plan on continuing to a doctorate in some branch of decision or control theory. I also study philosophy, fiction writing, and computer science.

Since becoming aware of rationality in general, and Eliezer Yudkowsky's way of making everything make sense, I've gotten pretty heavily into cognitive psychology and metacognition.

To be frank, I understand that I'm a rank amateur in the field of rationality in general, but I'm looking forward to trying to get better. So if you're downvoting me, or even upvoting me, explaining why in a comment or message would be extremely helpful, so I can take the time to reinforce my positive cognitive pathways, and prune my negative ones.

See you in the threads!

Hello,

I am a month long lurker who finally decided to make an account.

I'm 24, and am living as a US expat in Beijing right now. I have a BA in Economics from a top 5 university, where the most important thing I learned was just how little that actually meant. I got pretty disillusioned with academia, and I've only been able to start enjoying intellectual pursuits again in the last year or so; hence, it is nice to find a non-university community where I might be able to discuss interesting ideas without all of the self-important swagger.

I would say that the other important thing my econ background influenced is my rational decision making: I do not vote; I was involved in effective altruism (until I became an ethical nihilist); etc. I think I've experience some significant emotional blunting from this, and have mixed feelings about it. Hopefully being in a community of similarly oriented people (and getting more information about typical outcomes) will help me work through whether this is something that I need to address or not.

I lean somewhat classical-liberal (or pro-market left of center, with significant room for government provisioning for market failure) at the moment, but la... (read more)

2[anonymous]7ySee Vaniver on decision theory!
[-][anonymous]7y 11

Good [insert-time-of-day-here]! My name is Tighe, I'm 16 years old, and I found this site through one of my friends at school. I'm not the most intelligent person, but I am interested in becoming less wrong. I don't expect myself to compare very well to most people on this site, but hey, that's what the point of being an "aspiring" rationalist is, right? Some of my interests in life so far have been writing, programming, math, and science (though I'm not very good at the last two). I've been told that this site helps to improve one's thinking skills, ones that aren't offered in most high schools (or any high schools, really), and I think that could really help me improve in the aforementioned areas. Well, hello.

I'm not new to the site, but new to actually posting. Long time reader, first time poster, etc. I am a somewhat-regular member of the Los Angeles Less Wrong meetup, and I'm excited to keep learning more about rationality in general and Bayesian probability in particular.

1JoshuaZ7yWelcome from the depths of lurking! What made you decide to start posting? (I'm curious partially because there seem to be a few people who lurk and go to meetups and I don't fully understand the psychology of that.)
7AvivaLasVegas7yWell, I'm actually helping to plan an event for this LA Meetup, and I can't post the Meetup Event Topic Thingy without having Karma, so that's basically what pushed me towards actually posting. Which is funny, because I've been a regular meetup attendee for almost a year at this point.
[-][anonymous]7y 11

Hi everyone! I've been a lurker for a while now, this is my first real interaction. Found LessWrong through HPMOR (read the whole thing over a single weekend; read it again a month later).

I'm sixteen and have just graduated from a high school in India (I'm a US citizen, though). Currently applying to American universities, working through some online college courses and Godel, Escher, Bach; teaching myself Python, writing a novel, and continuing to teach myself Japanese (5th language). Also partying shamelessly.

I'm very undecided about my future, but to generalize, I'm probably going to go into either the film industry or physics, while writing fiction on the side. I have no doubt LessWrong can help immensely in each of my pursuits, and I aim to finish reading all the sequences by the end of the year (currently halfway through How to Actually Change Your Mind).

I love this site. At times while reading the articles I have a feeling of obscure deja vu, almost outright indignation. Like someone has stolen MY personal insights, expanded them exhaustively, and posted them online. (Yes, I realize the actual research is decades old and not solely by EY.) I find my own thought patterns in these articles. Some just click instantly, and I understand every aspect. Others I have to reread a few times to really get. Anyone else know this feeling, or does everyone just understand it with ease?

Can't thank my lucky stars enough that a site like this actually exists: it's a veritable compendium for ascending to godhood.

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

Hello LessWrong community,

I came to this site after having read Harper's Magazine article "Come With Us If You Want To Live" by LW member @swfrank (@vernvernvern and I have this in common!). I am 21 years old, and am a percussionist living in Omaha Nebraska.

The first rational thought I can recall occurred in Kearney, NE. I was about 8 years old, I was walking across a soccer pitch on my way home from school. I was singing a modern christian worship song, looking into the sky. As I stared into space, I realized how meaningless my words were. I was alone and I sang to no one (time seemed to slow, it was a surreal experience). I began questioning the existence of a watchful god (this was a hard thing to do in my highly christian family). After that I struggled to involve myself in worship. This was a cornerstone event for me, leading to a more rational way of life.

I am now a junior at University of Nebraska at Omaha working toward a percussion performance degree. My diet consists of about 60% Soylent. I look forward to the connections I will make on LessWrong.

I have compiled some individuals who have played a large role in my rationality and progress: Bjork (musician), Omar Rodriguez Lopez (of The Mars Volta), Stanley Kubrick, C.S. Lewis, Ralph Ellison, Friedrich Nietzsche, George Orwell, Ludwig Van Beethoven, György Ligeti (composer), David Lang (composer), Elon Musk, and Steven Schick (percussionist).

Philip Kolbo

2matt20007yI can relate to having musicians in my list of intellectual inspirations. Greg Graffin of Bad Religion was certainly an influence in mmy developing aspirations to rationality.
1PhilipKolbo7yYea, punk is a inspiration to me as well. You can see that with Omar.

I'm Matt, 32, Living in Los Angeles. I first read Less Wrong sometime in 2012, and attended the CFAR Workshop in February 2014, and finally now am getting around to signing up an account, because while i am not as wrong as I used to be, I'm still mostly wrong much of the time, but I'm working on fixing that. Sometimes I make overly complicated jokes that misuse mathmatical language, because I'm a programmer, not a mathematician. Sometimes I host rationalist rap battles, which in practice are a bit more like ratioanlist group hugs than the thing you saw in 8 mile. I'm an atheist who will gladly debate educated theists. I like board games and short walks on the beach. I'm @matt2000 on twitter.

0adam_shimi7yWelcome Matt. :) Can you explain a little more what you mean by rationalist rap battle? Seems fun.

Hi I'm Harsh Gupta I'm an undergraduate student studying Mathematics and Computing at IIT Kharagpur, India. I became interested in Rationality when I came across the wikipedia article for Conformational Bias around 2 years ago. That was pretty intriguing, I searched more and read Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational. Then also read his other book Upside of Irrationality and now I'm reading hpmor and Khaneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. I also read The Art of Startegy around the same time as Arliey's book and that was a life changer too. The basic background of Game Theory that I got from The Art of Startegy helped me learn to analyze complex real life situation from mathematical perspective. I came to know about lesswrong from grwern.net, which was suggested by friend who is learning functional programming. I want to get more involved with the community and I would like to contribute some articles in future. BTW is there any community todo list?

Hello all. My name's Tom and I'm a second-year undergraduate mathematics student in Adelaide, Australia. I rediscovered LessWrong a few months back after a conversation with friends about charitable donations where I referenced a post here about effective altruism. I had previously read only a few of the Sequences posts, having been directed here by Eliezer's fanfiction, but since signing up I've made my way through about 80% of the major sequences.

If anyone has any questions about my background or interests, please feel free to ask.

Hello.

I'm currently attempting to read through the MIRI research guide in order to contribute to one of the open problems. Starting from Basics. I'm emulating many of Nate's techniques. I'll post reviews of material in the research guide at lesswrong as I work through it.

I'm mostly posting here now just to note this. I can be terse at times.

See you there.

Hello people.

I am brand new to this site and really to the topic of rationality in general. A friend recommended HPMOR to me a few months ago and I loved it. I then read Cialdini's 'Influence' on recommendation from these forums, and I am now reading Rationality: from AI to Zombies.

My background is in science, having studied oceanography at university, graduating about ten years ago. I am currently thinking about training as a science teacher. I look forward to becoming better acquainted with this topic, and being involved in the discussions.

2Vaniver6yWelcome! :D
2Gram_Stone6yWelcome!
0[anonymous]6yWelcome! What level where you considering educating at?
-5[anonymous]6y
[-][anonymous]7y 9

Hey everyone!

I'm a long-time lurker of this site, but I haven't posted anything before. I've read all the sequences twice over the past few years, along with almost all non-sequence posts. The list of all posts was really not in an obvious location, but I eventually managed to find it!

So I'm new to the idea of actually communicating with people over the internet; I've never actually been a member of any forum before. Though I have a Reddit account, I've only made about ten posts in the year that I've been there. It's really weird; I often find myself think... (read more)

Hi all,

I've been following EY and LW for about four years now. I'm fairly new to posting though. I started out as a "republican" in elementary school, then turned into a "libertarian" in high school because I didn't care for many conservative positions. Then an "objectivist" in college, because I didn't care for the fact that libertarianism only extended to politics and not ethics. Then I became frustrated with the Objectivist community and their inability to adapt to the real world so I became a "all the people I've met... (read more)

I am have been a Less Wrong user with an anonymous account since the Overcoming Bias days. I decided to create this new account using my real name.

We'd love to know who you are:

  1. 19 y.o. at Berkeley
  2. Lived in Shanghai, London, CT, and CA

What you're doing:

  1. Dealing with classes
  2. Working jobs in design and CS on the side
  3. Thinking

What you value:

  1. Design that follows Dieter Rams' 10 Principles
  2. Talking with thoughtful people
  3. Big Hairy Audacious Ideas
  4. Good whisky

How you came to identify as an aspiring rationalist

  1. I get bored very easily so if Netflix and Hulu aren't available I occupy myself with thought experiments
  2. I like spotting logical holes in my beliefs and values (I argue against myself sometim
... (read more)
2gjm7yWelcome!
[-][anonymous]7y 8

Hey everyone! I'm a longtime lurker but I've never gotten around to making an account before now. I think my introduction to this site was actually someone linking to the Baby-Eating Aliens story a few years ago, which I guess isn't a common way to find this site. I've since read all of the sequences twice, and most of the other posts. Recent (unfounded, I hope) discussion about the site dying have made me finally get an account.

I'm a physics PhD student working in biophysics and computer simulations, and I also read philosophy and psychology in my free t... (read more)

New to this site... Have studied very little about logic and philosophy starting with some big famous papers that talk about how we know nothing for certain (thanks, Descartes), going through whether All Ravens are Black, studying the Perfect Island argument, learning about Famine, Affluence, and Morality, and ending somewhere along the lines of whether justified true belief is knowledge. That is to say, I'm not that educated on logic or rationality, but entertaining ideas is a great hobby of mine.
I came to Less Wrong because I found it on Harry Potter MO... (read more)

4ilzolende7yThere seems to be a lot of other high school students on this site lately. If you like this stuff, you may also like the International Baccalaureate class Theory of Knowledge, which you can often take as an elective even if you're not an IB student. Kind of curious about your theism, don't feel required to answer: A lot of nonreligious people who believe in a god are deists or pantheists. Are you either of those? If not, would you be willing to give more detail about your beliefs? Also, I'm kind of starting to wonder if some people don't really like classifying themselves into groups. Is the reason you don't affiliate with a political party because you want one that better matches your positions on policy, or because you wouldn't associate with one even if you agreed with them on all policy proposals? Most people define "evil" as "wants evil things", not "has evil revealed preferences". If you're looking at social behavior, we all have ulterior motives (I want to talk about things regardless of how annoyed a listener is, I want a strong support structure so that if something goes wrong I can get help, I want people to entertain me), but the actions those motives lead to are pretty low on the scale of bad stuff, somewhere close to EY's dust speck.
2Anders_H7yAs a 2001 IB Diploma Graduate, I have to disagree very strongly with this advice (unless the curriculum for the Theory of Knowledge course has changed substantially over the last 15 years). I remember taking this course and being immensely frustrated by how almost every discussion was obviously just disagreement about semantics. This completely killed my interest in epistemology and philosophy, it was only when I read the "Human's Guide to Words" sequence several years later that I realized there were people who were thinking seriously about these issues without getting into pointless discussions about whether items are rubes or bleggs. Courses in mainstream philosophy that get stuck on confusion about the meaning of words have the effect of turning rigorous thinkers away from thinking about philosophical questions. As for myself, if it hadn't been for reading Overcoming Bias years later, the IB course on Theory of Knowledge could have permanently killed my interest in epistemology.
0ilzolende7yIt's been better than that so far (first few weeks). We haven't argued much over meanings of things yet. The one disappointment is that I get really defensive every time we discuss whether doing whatever empathy tells you to do is moral, because that's half of the argument that says autistics are evil mass murderers (not actually the position of anyone in the class), and I get mildly annoyed when people mischaracterize utilitarianism or have clearly never heard of it before. (The situation in which all the available options are rule-violating and you choose the utility-maximizing one is different from the situation in which all the high-utility options are rule-violating, and you violate the rules and then choose a low-utility action.)
0Lumifer7yI don't like classifying myself into groups. You try to crawl into a pigeonhole and you get scrapes and bruises, and sometimes things get torn off...
0theWRITER7ySee as far as my beliefs, I have a strong religious background... Catholic elementary and middle school (I go to non-sectional, public high school now), Hindu dad, Protestant (Lutheran) mom... I mean, I generally end up changing my mind every year or so, but right now, I believe that God exists as the Universe working within itself... and that as each of us live, we each experience God... I don't know, I can't seem to get my head wrapped around the idea of a nonexistent god because of my strong religious background. Not very "rational", I guess, but that's just me personally, and there's really no should or shouldn't as far as faith goes, so I've just been rolling with it. So, I sort of just been changing my perspective based on what I learn and hear about the world. I don't know if that really affiliates with deism or pantheism, really, but if what I explained above affiliates with one of them, would you (or anyone) explain how? And as far as political parties go, there was this time when I tried to identify myself as Republican (though I really would be more of a Conservative Democrat) because I was tired of saying "No affiliation." It also kind of seemed like a fun little experiment because then I would be going against pretty much everyone else (most of the people I know tend to be democrat). I couldn't really hold out that long because, I don't know, being affiliated with Republican--or Democrat for that matter--makes people regard you as some political freak and not merely a person just agreeing with one more. Another thing, when I found myself affiliating with Republican, I found that I began to care more about what party supports what position, and I feel like that's something that just shouldn't matter. In the end, I'm also somewhat ignorant and not very confident about my positions just yet either. And as far as ulterior motives, saying that I don't trust people could be seen as my ulterior motive to not have to be generous and charitable (it's a prett
0ilzolende7yThat matches to my interpretation of your stated beliefs. Most of the atheism stuff on this site has more to do with a god that is a discrete being with supernatural capabilities than the thing you describe. However, if the main reason that you're not an atheist is that you have trouble picturing a godless universe, and you change beliefs based on what you learn and hear about the world (good work, by the way), chances are good that you'll end up being an atheist if you spend enough time on this site. ;) If you actually want to clarify your beliefs, it could help to imagine some different worlds and see whether they count as having God in them or not, in order to consider what constitutes the absence of God. If there's no scenario that counts as God not existing, then I'm not sure what your belief that "God exists" is supposed to represent, and what information about the world someone could derive from that belief, given that it was true. Thanks so much for the data about party affiliation! Also, if you count subconscious desires to act in one's own interest as "ulterior motives", you may like what Robin Hanson on Overcoming Bias [http://www.overcomingbias.com] has to say about signaling.
3LawrenceC7yWelcome! I just want to comment on the "everyone is evil" idea - "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." Or broken incentive systems. Or something in that vein. :p
[-][anonymous]6y 7

A Challenger Has Arrived! Hello, yes, I'd like to announce that I am successfully existing for the first time in forever. I've been a lurker for quite some time, and have finished Eliezer's book. As I've stepped up my studies and plan to continue doing so, I've decided that scouting for a party to join would be wise.

Right now I'm finalizing my grasp of Rationality: From A.I. to Zombies, and organizing some notes I have on my personal struggle with willpower depletion. I would really appreciate if anyone knows of any site-external sources I could devour,... (read more)

1John_Maxwell6yWelcome! Re: willpower stuff, I found this guy's writing [http://dirtsimple.org/] very helpful several years ago. You can get his free book by putting your email in at the bottom of this [http://thinkingthingsdone.com/2010/02/the-lost-chapters.html] page. (More specifics on the willpower issues you are facing might allow me to give more targeted advice.)

Introduction comment, as requested.

I've been coming back to this site over and over again, for one or two years now I would say, for any number of topics, and today it dawned on me that there's something great about this site, the community / comments, and material, and that - maybe - I would like to become a part of it.

One email confirmation later, and the goal is achieved in its entirety.

Right, guys?

sigh

EDIT: One minor technical question... the comment system seems to be more or less a straight port from reddit, correct? But, unlike reddit, comment score starts at 0, it seems. Or did my other comment immediately receive a negative vote, seconds after going live?

3[anonymous]6yHail zanglebert. The comments do indeed start at a null score. I also have noticed a "Powered by Reddit" icon in the lower right. That is the extent of my knowledge.

Hello everyone.

My name is Kabelo Moiloa, and I graduated from the Anglo-American School of Moscow three weeks ago. My deep interests are math, computer science and physics, in fact I might consider doing a series of posts here on Homotopy Type Theory, since I've been going through the HoTT Book. I first came to this website likely four years ago, so I don't remember well how it was. As I recall, I came here soon after I deconverted from Catholicism, and have found the discussions and content here fascinating ever since. For example, although I had already ... (read more)

2JonahS6yI remember you, glad to hear it :-).

Hi all,

I'm a recently graduated aerospace engineer. First came upon LW via HPMOR a couple years ago, been through the Sequences once since then, currently going through Rationality: A to Z mostly as a refresher.

Gravitated toward aerospace as a sort of proto existential risk mitigation effort, but having spoken with Nick Beckstead via 80,000 hours and comparing the potential of various fields to mitigate X-Risk within the next ~100 years which resulted in my discounting space development relative to other fields, currently more open to other avenues.

Very in... (read more)

Hi All, I live at the LW Boston house, the Citadel. My undergrad and grad was in Biology, and I am switching into programming. I am interested in psychology and cognitive biases. I value self-improvement and continuous learning. I recently started blogging at https://evolvingwithtechnology.wordpress.com.

Hello everyone!

I just registered and I don't quite know how this works, but the HPMOR Wrap Party Organizers Handbook said to post here, and so here I am.

Venue: Griffith Observatory front lawn

2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Date/Time: March 14, 2015: 6:00pm

Cost: Free access to the complex, planetarium shows are $7

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1585754024996915/

Contact email: ladyastralis at gmail youknowtherest

Please bring: A (picnic) blanket, some snacks/food, some way to read HPMOR that has its own light source (I called ... (read more)

1Gondolinian7yWelcome, Amanda! You might want to post your event info as a comment here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ltd/hpmor_wrap_parties_resources_information_and/] so it gets attention from the wrap party coordinator. Or you could send it to the coordinator [http://lesswrong.com/user/Habryka/overview/] as a private message.
1ladyastralis7yThanks Gondolinian! I took your advice. Also, Oliver is definitely aware of this party.
[-][anonymous]7y 7

Dear All (or whatever is the appropriate way to address the community here),

Reading Star Slate Codex kindled my interest in this community. I do not (yet) consider myself a Rationalist, largely because I don't put a disproportionately high value on the truth value of statements as opposed to their other uses, but I might be something sort of a fellow traveller because I think we have one thing in common: curiosity and the desire to investigate and analyze everything.

About me: not actually Dutch (although European, never been to the USA), my nickname is a b... (read more)

4RichardKennaway7yAnd while I'm thinking about Aquinas, I remember I once wrote this pastiche of the method: Whether the composition of the Summa Theologiae was an act of bizarre monomania divorced from reality? Objection 1: The Angelic Doctor was learned in all of the theology and scripture that preceded him, and drew it into a single coherent work that has not been superceded. Therefore, this was a valuable and mighty deed, and not an act of bizarre monomania divorced from reality. Objection 2: The Church has blessed his work and canonised its author. Therefore, etc. On the contrary, It is written that the author himself, after seven years labour cast his work aside, saying that it was of straw, and did not pick up his pen again before he died soon after. I answer that, It was an act of bizarre monomania divorced from reality. For it is written that there is only One Holy Book, the manuscript of nature, the only scripture which can enlighten the reader. And the Summa makes no reference to anything but the writings and philosophical speculations of the past. Therefore, it fails to read of that Book which alone can enlighten the reader. Furthermore, the form in which the Summa is written, listing for each point of doctrine objections, contrary objection, verdict, and refutation of the opposing objections, lends itself to argument in favour of any view whatever; in contrast to the method of logic and experiment, which does not lend itself to argument in favour of any view whatever, but only (save for our fallible natures), in favour of that which is true and can be tested. Therefore the Summa proves no point of doctrine, but rather provides only a form of catechism to be recited in favour of the official doctrine. Reply to Objection 1. The writings of the past are valuable as a source of truth, only in so far as they ultimately rest on observation of nature. Neither theology nor scripture rest upon observation of nature. Reply to Objection 2. Those who themselves value a work,
2IlyaShpitser7yThis is a great question, I think about this a lot too. My intuitions are: a bit of reaction, e.g. getting in touch with the glorious past. This might work w/ e.g. Poland/Lithuania, may work even on Russia, if Russia remembers how the Novgorod republic worked. But Russia is a hard nut to crack. But yes once there is a society-wide defection norm, it is hard to get out of.
2Lumifer7yIsn't that what Putin is doing? I am not sure this is a great idea. The past glories tend to be associated with nationalistic wars. Another issue is what would unfucking entail -- turning East Europeans into Scandinavians? National cultural characteristics tend to be pretty persistent :-/ Otherwise, the canonical answer seems to be a long period of civil society, rule of law, etc. I am not holding my breath.
0IlyaShpitser7yRussia is a super interesting special case. An interesting alternative history to ponder, re: Russia, is what would have happened had Novgorod predominated and not Moskva. Novgorod was sort of "the Lowlands of the East" in terms of the way they did things. Moskva was quite culturally nasty, and they got ahead by being basically the tax collectors for the Mongols.
0hg007yOne solution to this is to develop, through force if necessary, a small group of people where cooperation is enforced, then expand that group. For example, anarchy advances to despotism when a single powerful despot dominates and prevents anyone but him from using force. City-states advance to empire when a single city (e.g. Rome) conquers them and forces cooperating within its borders (Pax Romana). The analogy might be for a rich, powerful Russian with a clean reputation to make lots of friends who also have a clean reputation and go found a city somewhere in unincorporated Russian land with an able, honest police force and strongly enforced cooperation norms. Of course, in this age you win with industry [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2015/01/industry-era-action-stories.html], so maybe you'd also want lots of smart people starting software companies. (Or why start it on Russian land, even? Russian is one of the coldest places on Earth, right? Is just moving everyone who doesn't like corruption out of Russia a viable solution?) Are there anonymous online forums where Russians can discuss corruption?
0Lumifer7yAre you referring to the collectivization of agriculture [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivization_in_the_Soviet_Union] in Russia? X-D Ain't no such animal. Anonymity is on the speaker's end, not on the forums end. But you might be interested in Alexei Navalny [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexei_Navalny] who is politically active on the anti-corruption platform.
0IlyaShpitser7yIt is, and is in fact what happened once the Iron Curtain fell. (This is an oversimplification, obviously).
0ChristianKl7yI can handle my feeling on their own and I don't need someone to lie to me to comfort myself. Fully accepting reality, allows processing of emotions much better. Being conscious about ideology is useful but I don't think it's very useful to think in terms of religion. For Muslims rules about how inheritance works are part of their religion. For Christians that's not true. Effective Altruism does fulfill some social values of religion. It doesn't need a God to do so, or forbid it's followers to believe in Gods. If you want spiritual experiences there are various practices that don't need any decision to believe in Gods that might even better at providing spiritual experiences than Christian religion. Of course. Academic psychology attempts to measure a variety of traits.
0RichardKennaway7yOn the subject of AIquinas, there's a story: The Quest for St. Aquin [http://facstaff.uww.edu/carlberj/aquin.htm].

Hi! Lesswrong first came to my attention when I read HPMOR. I took a 2-year course in Knowledge and Inquiry - which includes critical thinking and epistemology (also includes philosophy of science). I was a Christian but reading some articles on Lesswrong and reading counter-arguments to Christianity convinced me otherwise (trying to reduce confirmation bias and trying to falsify the belief of Christianity).

Pardon me for taking this opportunity to express one concern I've had for more than a year. I'm a college student and I am concerned that I am not sma... (read more)

8gjm7yNo one is smart enough. But if you mean, specifically, smart enough to then I think the question is kinda backwards. "Am I too stupid to try to improve my thinking?" -- it's like "am I too sick to try to improve my health?" or "am I too weak to try to improve my strength?" or "am I too poor to try to get more money?". Now, no doubt all those things are possible. If you really can't reason at all, maybe you'd be wasting your time trying to reason better. And there are such things as hospices, and maybe some people are so far in debt that nothing they do will get them out of poverty. But those are unusual situations, and someone who is headed for a good result in a challenging subject at a good university is absolutely not in that sort of situation, and if the stuff on Less Wrong is too hard for you to understand the fault is probably in the material, not in you. A fine example of the kind of "easy" task human brains (even good ones) are shockingly bad at. I just attempted a randomly-chosen 2-digit multiplication in my head. I got the wrong answer. Am I just not very intelligent? Well, I represented the UK at two International Mathematical Olympiads, have a PhD in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, and have been gainfully employed as a mathematician in academia and industry for most of my career. So far as I can tell from online testing, my IQ is distinctly higher than the (already quite impressive) Less Wrong average. It is OK not to be very good at mental arithmetic. (Having said which: If there were something important riding on it, I'd be more careful and I'm pretty sure I could do it reliably. I did a few more to check this and it looks like it's true. So I may well in fact be better at multiplying 2-digit numbers than you are. But the point is: this is not something you should expect to be easy, even if it seems like it should be. And the other point is: Even if you are, in some possibly-useful sense, less intelligent than you would like to be,
1kaler7yThank you for the reminder that precision in language is very important. I learnt that in the Knowledge and Inquiry course I was enrolled in. Thank you also for taking time and effort to type out that reply. It is deeply comforting and a great encouragement to me.
6IlyaShpitser7yFor folks who post here morale and akrasia are usually much bigger problems than brain hardware.
4CCC7y... You are not too stupid. You are really, really, seriously, not too stupid. That's something that you might want to work on, but it's not a general intelligence failure. There are some tricks that can be learned (or discovered) and employed to multiply by specific numbers more quickly; alternatively, practice will help to speed up your mental multiplication.
4kaler7yThanks for the encouragement! I will try my best to work through the sequences. I have just finished map and territory and mysterious answers to mysterious questions. I noticed that many articles in the sequences confuse me at times because I can think of multiple interpretations of a particular paragraph but have no idea which was intended. Also, many actions/thoughts of Harry in HPMOR confuse me. I might have interpretations of the events but I don't think those interpretations are likely to be correct. Is this normal? I have edited the post though, I think that saying that I am on track to receive First Class Honours in both is too optimistic. I can say with quite a high degree of certainty that I am on track to receive at least Second Upper in both. But then again, I tend to be too pessimistic when it comes to grades and honours. I just really don't get why I don't do well in math, which I assume would be the best measure of one's fluid intelligence. Things such as why dividing by zero doesn't work confuses me and I often wonder at things such as the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. It seems that my mind lights up with too many questions when I learn math, many of which are difficult to answer. (My professor does not have much time to meet students for consultations and I don't think I want to waste his time). It seems that I need to undergo suspension of disbelief just to do math, which doesn't seem right given that a lot of it has been rigorously proven by loads of people much smarter than me. (But yes, I understand there is the Gödel's theorem as well). Is this normal too? The thing is, I can't find any convincing evidence (maybe a study or something) that fluid intelligence cannot be fully described by mathematical ability (if effort exists). Thanks again for your encouragement!
4Epictetus7yScholastic math is a different beast. I can say that a lot of professors have issues with the "standard" math curriculum. I have taught university calculus myself and I don't think that the curriculum and textbook I had to work with had much to do with "fluid intelligence". Sounds like one source for your troubles. It's a lot harder to succeed at school math and go through the motions if you have unanswered questions about why the method works (and aren't willing to blindly follow formulas). By all means bring your questions up to the professor. If he's teaching, there's probably some university policy that he be available to students for a certain amount of hours outside of class (i.e. it's part of his job). You lose nothing by trying. Even an e-mail wouldn't be a bad idea in the last resort. In my experience, professors tend to complain about students who never seek help until they show up the day before the final at their wits' end (or, worse still, after the final to ask why they failed). By that point it's too late. We like our multiplication rules to work nicely and division by zero causes problems. There's no consistent way to define something like 0/0 (you could say that since 1 x 0 = 0, 0/0 should be 1, but this argument works for any number). With something like 1/0, you could say "infinity", but does that then mean 0 x infinity = 1? What's 2/0 then?
2ChristianKl7yA very easy way to improve your writing would be to separate your text into paragraphs. It doesn't take any intelligence but just awareness of norms. Math.stackexchange [http://math.stackexchange.com/] exists for that purpose. Not everybody is good at math. That's okay. Scott Alexander who's an influential person in this community writes on his blog [http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/31/the-parable-of-the-talents/]: Math is about abstract thinking. That means "common sense" often doesn't work. One has to let go of naive assumptions and accept answers that don't seem obvious. In many cases the ability to trust that established mathematical finding are correct even if you can't follow the proof that establishes them is an useful ability. It makes life easier. In addition to what CCC wrote http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/26445/division-by-0 [http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/26445/division-by-0] is a good explanation of the case.
4kaler7yI hope you don't mind that I have now separated my comment into paragraphs. It's such an obvious problem in hindsight. Thank you for your reply! It encouraged me a lot!
1ChristianKl7yAccepting feedback and directly applying it is great :)
1CCC7yWhile yes, that can make life easier, it also means that if the reason why you can't follow the proof is because you're misunderstanding the finding in question, then you're not applying any error checking and anything that you do that depends on that misunderstanding is going to potentially be incorrect. So, if you're going into any field where mathematics is important, it can also make life significantly harder.
2ChristianKl7yIt's hard to put in words what I mean. There a certain ability to think in abstract concepts that you need in math. Wanting things to feel like you "understand" can be the wrong mode of engaging complex math. That doesn't mean that understanding math isn't useful but it's abstract understanding and trying to seek a feeling of common sense can hold people back.
2CCC7yI... think I learnt math in a very different way to you. If I didn't feel that I understood something, I went back until I felt that I did. I do not understand the difference between an "abstract understanding" and a "feeling of common sense". Is a feeling of common sense not a subtype of an abstract understanding (in the same way that a "square" is a subtype of a "rectangle")?
1Epictetus7yOn the contrary, failing to feel common sense is usually a sign that you don't really understand what's going on. Your understanding of an abstract concept is only as good as that of your best example. The abstract method in mathematics is just a way of taking features common to several examples and formulating a theory that can be applied in many cases. With that said, it is a useful skill in math to be able to play the game and proceed formally. There's an anecdote about a famous math professor who had to teach a class. The first time, the students didn't understand. A year later, he taught it again. Learning from experience, he made it simpler. The students still didn't understand. When he taught it a third time, he made it simple enough that even he finally understood it. I will concede that in practice it can be expedient to trust the experts with the complications and use ready-made formulas.
2Nornagest7yThis doesn't seem to be true for anything that's normally analyzed statistically: the stock market, for example, or large-scale meteorology.
2CCC7yThis seems normal to me. What is intended is very often not an easy question to answer. The mere fact that you have been accepted for and expect to pass a double degree tells me that you are really not too stupid. (I'm not actually sure what the difference between Second Upper and First Class Honours is - I assume that's because you're referring to the education system of a country with which I am not familiar). Theory: You had a poor teacher in primary-school level maths, and failed to learn something integral to the subject way back there. Something really basic and fundamental. Despite this severe handicap, you have managed to get to the point where you're going to pass a double degree (which implies good things about your intelligence). I... don't actually know. Throughout my entire school career, I was the guy for whom maths came easily. I don't know what's normal there. Actually, it may be possible to narrow down what you're missing in mathematics. (If we do find it, it won't solve all your math problems immediately, but it'll be a good first step) Let's start here: Define "division".
2kaler7yWow! Thank you so much for your time and effort in typing out that reply! Well, About 3-5 percent of the best students in a cohort can expect to get First Class Honours. It basically means 97th percentile, or 95th percentile, depending on the quality of the students. The 75th to 95th percentile can expect to get Second Class Honours. I must admit that this question stunned me. I don't actually know. What first came to my mind is that it is some sort of algorithm (case 1: two integers that divide cleanly, case 2: two integers that divide to make a fraction, case 3: an unknown ...) that has useful applications (e.g. it is useful to know that you can divide 6 apples by 3 people to allocate 2 to each person). This is my shot at a definition: division is an operation that gives the ratio of number/function F and another number/function G. The ratio can be determined by seeing how many of G can be added together to comprise F. It can be a fraction/real number/complex number/function. Argh. I am stumped. This definition seems like Swiss cheese.
3arundelo7yI recommend chapter 22 ("Algebra") of volume 1 of The Feynman Lectures on Physics [http://www.amazon.com/Feynman-Lectures-Physics-boxed-set/dp/0465023827/].Here's a PDF. [http://users.uoa.gr/~pjioannou/Feynman%20Physics%20Lectures%20V1%20Ch22%201962-01-23%20Algebra.pdf] My summary (intended as an incentive to read the Feynman, not a replacement for reading it): 1. We start with addition of discrete objects ("I have two apples; you have three apples. How many apples do we have between us?"). No fractions, no negative numbers, no problem. 2. We get other operations by repetition -- multiplication is repeated addition, exponentiation is repeated multiplication. 3. We get yet more operations by reversal -- subtraction is reversed addition, division is reversed multiplication, roots and logarithms are reversed exponentiation. These operations also let us define new kinds of numbers (fractions, negative numbers, reals, complex numbers) that are not necessarily useful for counting apples or sheep or pebbles but are useful in other contexts. Rules for how to work with these new kinds of numbers are motivated by keeping things as consistent as possible with already-existing rules.
1CCC7yWhich implies that I can, tentatively, estimate you to be in the top 10% of people who are accepted for a degree. That's really good. ...I think we've found the start of the problem. Your foundations have a few holes. Dividing X by Y, at its core, means that I have X objects, I want to place them in Y exactly equal piles, how many objects do I place per pile? (At least, that's the definition I'd use). In this way, the usefulness of the operation is immediately apparent; if I have six apples, and I want to divide them among three people, I can give each person two apples. I can use the same definition if I have five apples and three people; then I give each person one and two-thirds apples. This also works for negative numbers; if I have negative-six apples (i.e. a debt of six apples) I can divide that into three piles by placing negative-two apples in each pile. Division by zero then becomes a matter of taking (say) six apples, and trying to put them into zero piles. (I hope that makes the problem with division by zero clear). And yes, there is a fancy algorithm that I can put X and Y in and get the quotient out... but that algorithm is not a particularly good basic definition of division. (Interestingly, I note that your definition jumps straight to setting out separate cases and then trying to apply a different algorithm to each individual case. This would make it very hard to work with in practice; I've worked with division algorithms on computers, and they're far simpler, conceptually, than what you had there. If that's what you've been working with, then I am really not surprised that you've been having trouble with maths). Now let's see how far this goes... Define "multiplication", "addition", and "subtraction".
2kaler7yThank you so much for this, CCC. You really made my day. I think I overcomplicate things. When I read your answer, I was thinking, (seriously no offense because I know you are really smart) I don't know for sure that this definition works for complex numbers. I was wondering how I could conceptualize it. And then I was thinking that mathematics relies on definitions and deductive reasoning and intuition cannot give the certainty of deductive reasoning, thus it might be a fallacy to think that something simple and intuitive is an accurate model of mathematical reality... then I remembered that it was taught in kindergartens even... Sucks to have my mindset, doesn't it? I also keep thinking that I can't be sure that I covered all possible cases with my definition - another major problem of mine. X*Y : I have Y sets of X objects, how many objects do I have? Works with fractions, and negative numbers (thinking in terms of debts). X+Y : I have X objects. I am given Y objects. How many objects do I have? Again works with fractions and negative numbers. It's easy to visualize imaginary numbers as another type of object 'x', and I am given y objects. So I have x + y imaginary objects and X + Y real objects. X-Y : I have X objects. Y objects are taken away from me. Again, same question, and works with fractions and negative numbers, and having 'x' and 'y' objects helps me deal with imaginary numbers. What I've been wondering is why y – y1 = m(x – x1) works but m = (y - y1)/(x-x1) does not include the point when x = x1. After learning what you've taught me, it is intuitive that these two equations are very different (in terms of giving and taking apples). But before today, it shocked me to think that we can't always manipulate algebra by dividing both sides by something, and I have to be extremely careful. Then it makes me wonder what other exceptions to manipulation there is, and what kind of deductive reasoning is in use here, if there are exceptions. I also wo
1CCC7yIt does; complex numbers are just another type of number. We'll get to them shortly. To be fair, sometimes the intuitive answer is wrong; one does have to take care. But sometimes, as in these cases, the intuitive model does work. Exactly. Perfect. You could do it that way, and it leads to the correct answers, but I think it's fundamentally problematic to see complex numbers as intrinsically different to real numbers. (For one thing, real numbers are a subset of complex numbers in any case). Right. There's only one that I can think of off the top of my head; if x^z=y^z, this does not mean that x=y (i.e. we can't just take the z'th root on both sides of the equation). This can be clearly demonstrated with x=2, y=-2 and z=2. Two squared is four, which is equal to (negative two) squared, but two is not equal to negative two. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Now, as to complex numbers. Let me start by asking you to define a "complex number".
0kaler7yMy best guess: A ball with a radius X and a rotation Y. Inflate it when multiplying with a real number. Rotate it when multiplying with an imaginary part. //My thoughts: Rotation of objects? another type of object that interacts with ordinary numbers in multiplication and division? i is a number that can be visualised running perpendicular to a real number line. Euler formula? //I have Y objects. I can allocate them to X sets and get X objects in each set. X is the root of Y. If I owed Y objects, then I can allocate ... Ok I don't know where to go from here. //A complex number is a number of objects, where some or none of those objects are roots of debts.
1CCC7yOkay, those are all - well, I think I can kind of see some relation to complex numbers in there, but it's very vague. So, let me describe how I understand complex numbers. To do that, we'll have to go right back to the very basics of mathematics; numbers. Imagine, for a moment, an infinite piece of paper. (Or you can get a piece of paper and draw this, if you like; you won't need to draw the whole, infinite thing, just enough to get the idea) Take a point, nice and central. Mark it "zero". Select a second point (traditionally, this point is chosen to the right of zero, but the location doesn't matter). Mark it "one". Now, let us call the distance between zero and one a "jump". You start from zero, you move a jump in a particular direction, you get to "one". You move another jump in the same direction, you get to "two". Another jump, "three". Another jump, "four". And so on, to infinity. These are the positive integers. Now, consider an operation; addition. If I apply addition to any pair of positive integers, I get another positive integer. Any of these numbers that I add gives me a number I already have; I can add no new numbers with addition. However, I can also invert the addition operation, to get subtraction. If I want to find X+Y, I hop X jumps from the zero point,then Y more jumps. But if I want to find X-Y, I must jump X jumps to the right, then Y jumps to the left; and this gives me the negative integers. Add them to the mental numberline. At this point, multiplication gives us no new numbers. Division , however, does. You will now notice, there are still gaps between the numbers. To fill these gaps, we turn to division; X/Y gives us a plethora of new numbers (1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, so on and so forth), hundreds and millions and billions of little dots between each point on the numberline. These are the rational numbers. Is the numberline full yet? Hardly; it turns out that the rational numbers are so small a proportion of the numberline that it's st

Hello everyone – I’m a new member of LessWrong. I consider myself to be a rationalist and humanist. I’m interested in applying rational analysis to help the general public understand complex problems. To help achieve this goal, I’ve been working on a wiki-style website to explain the key nuances of various controversial issues.

The concept is designed to provide meaning and clarity to a wide variety of complex issues, rather than simply enumerating the facts as Wikipedia already does decently well.

I’m wondering if: 1) Anyone in the LessWrong community has thought about something like this; and 2) If there is any interest in learning more about this project

Best, WS

Newcomer, mathematician by species; freethinker, secularist and rationalist by nature. Abrasive and irreverent, if I haven't annoyed off at least five pompous people in any given day, it's a day utterly wasted.

I'm Sam, 22. Lurked here for two years after first stumbling upon the Sequences. Since then, I've been trying to curb inaccurate or dishonest thought patterns or behaviors I've noticed about myself, and am trying to live my life more optimally. I'm making an account to try to hold myself more accountable.

I joined a while ago but don't think I ever posted here. I'd lurked for quite some time here and at various blogs a degree or so separation away since before that. I've mostly link-hopped my way around the sequences and various pieces of fiction and followed folks on facebook and recently realized we had a local LW meetup. I'm happy to answer any questions about me, but never really know what kind of information would be relevant to put in an introductory post, so instead I thought I'd make a proposal instead:

I've seen (for a while) a lot of activity... (read more)

Hi, I'm new here. I find this site while looking for information about A.I. I read a few articles and couldn't help but smile to myself and think 'wasn't this what to the Internet was suppose to be. I had no idea this site existed and I'm honestly glad to have found stacks of future reading, you know that feeling. I never really post on sites and would have usually have lurked myself silly but I've been promted into action by a question. I posted this to reddit in the shower thoughts section because it seemed appropriate but I'd like to ask you (more).

I ... (read more)

0hairyfigment6yI have bad news for you. People have described ideas for an AI that only seeks knowledge (though I can't find the best link to explain it now). I think this design would calmly kill us all to see what would happen, if we'd somehow prevented it from dropping an anvil on its own head. To "become one with all things" does not seem sufficiently well-specified to stop either from happening. In general, if we can reasonably interpret the goal as something that's already true, then the AI will do nothing to achieve it (nothing being the most efficient action).
0humesbacon6yI by no means thought I had stumbled upon something. I was just curious to see what other people thought. I thought to be one with all things was a very ambiguous statement, I think what I was trying to get at was if the A.I. caused harm in some way it would therefore inhibit it from completing its primary goal by definition. And Buddha seemed the only example I could think of. Perhaps Plato's or Nietzche's versions of übermensch might fit better? Thank you for replying I look forward to being a part of this community

I love teaching, especially interacting with my students and their thinking, and I love philosophy, especially ethics. Understandably, I'm a philosophy teacher. I also enjoy politics, history, biology and the great outdoors.

Hello All!

I'm not exactly new: I discovered this at around time HPMOR started (wow 3 years ago). I've always liked thinking about how thought works; Hofstadter's GEB was a big influence. I've started the sequences several times, but never seem to finish. So I'm actually registering to see if that helps motivate me to read them all.

Hello everyone,

I'm Xavier, a 20 year old student from France. I've known about this site for a while. A week ago, I finally decided to start digging into the sequences for some useful insights. I'm interested in various topics such as philosophy, futurology, history and science. However, I'm almost certain my understanding of the world is seriously lacking compared to the average poster here. For example, I have no STEM background at all aside from the most basic knowledge, which is likely to become a problem in the future.

I've been obsessed with the idea ... (read more)

1dxu7yHello, Xavier, and welcome to LessWrong!

Hey everyone!

My name is Tim Cohen and I wanted to say hello! I am new to lesswrong and I am excited to be here.

1Alicorn7yDid you spell your screenname like that on purpose?

Hi. I'm a long time lurker (a few years now), and I finally joined so that I could participate in the community and the discussions. This was borne partly out of a sense that I'm at a place in my life where I could really benefit from this community (and it could benefit from me), and partly out of a specific interest in some of the things that have been posted recently: the MIRI technical research agenda.

In particular, once I've had more time to digest it, I want to post comments and questions about Reasoning Under Logical Uncertainty.

More about me: I'm... (read more)

Hello. I am new to this site as well. My background includes physics, mathematics, and philosophy at graduate level, which I am studying now.

I do not identify myself as a "rationalist", but that does not mean that I may not be a rationalist or that I am not trying to follow some of the advice that is given here to be a rationalist. I discovered LW after reading the story "Three Worlds Collide", which I discovered thanks to tvtropes.org. Lately I have been thinking and writing a lot about my own goals, and when I took a look around LW I ... (read more)

1John_Maxwell7yWelcome! Maybe we can invent a new label for people like you and me who aren't sure if they identify as "rationalists" but nonetheless find themselves agreeing with lots of what's written on Less Wrong anyway :P Quasirationalist or semirationalist, perhaps?
0Nikario7yThanks! Actually, even though I said it is unimportant, I would like to explore further this particular question at some point. I would like to know: 1) How does my thought differ, if it does, from the major current of thought in LW. 2) Does this difference, if there is any, amount to the fact that I am not as rational as the average LWer is? Or is it due to factors that are neutral from the point of view of rationality (if there are such things)? I'll write about it when I find the time.

Well met!

My name is Fox, and I am an actor and magician...well...In actuality, I guess those are both the same thing. I know how you all love concision, so I'll try again... ahem

Well met!

My name is Fox, and I am a liar. Empathetic to a fault, highly spiritual, and emotionally driven--still an emo boy at heart--I live as far from consciously as it gets. My main passions are girls, music, and service to others. Core values are: love, kindness, beauty, passion, immersion, and evolution.

For the past year I have studied and practiced magick. It is very real ... (read more)

0[anonymous]7yImmersion!!! Do you clean your objectives with xylene?
0Lumifer7yplus 8-0 Prediction: you will have a very confused and maybe fun trip.

Hello, everyone!

I am a long-time lurker and reader of LessWrong, and I have finally worked myself up to making an account and writing some comments. I am looking forward to participating in the discussions more, and hopefully writing some posts and contributing to the thought-bank here. So far, LessWrong have been a great resource for me, helping me to get a sturdier basis for my ideological framework, and exposing me to some good new ideas to think about.

For a little bit about myself: I am 29 years old, Russian, bachelors’ degree in Chemistry and Math and... (read more)

[-][anonymous]7y 5

I do economics, working on an interesting problem that might involve computer logic and recursion, but I am not a computer logic and recursion man. Thought to write a series of articles on economics aimed at building up to my current confusion, then thought to post them somewhere, would be convenient if audience with some knowledge of computer logic and recursion...

...oh.

~12 articles in, should be fun....

Hello, everybody, and happy belated solstice.

I used to post here from a different account until some time ago, then I decided it was not anonymous enough (also, the username was quite silly) so I deleted it. Here I am again, but this time I'll be more careful about privacy.

BTW, the only reason for the underscores in my username is that the software won't let me use spaces, so don't bother with them. Also, in case you need to refer to me with a gendered pronoun, I'm a "he".

Hello everyone!

I'm new to the site. I'm a grad student with a science background hoping to learn more about rationality and science. I've read posts on LW for quite some time (~ 3 years). I'm an atheist and a skeptic with some knowledge about theoretical physics.

See you around! ~dajoker

Hello.

My name is Mikhail, and I have been lurking on LW for a several months, mostly reading sequences. I have discovered this site after reading HPMoR, as no doubt many had.

I'm a practitioner of GTD, and I am looking for

  • supplementing understood low-level practices of performing things with metaalgorithms for decision making and planning

  • improving tactics / learning tricks for handling low-level tasks which don't come naturally to me (such as learning languages), and hence cannot be efficiently done by regular planning / execution process

A bit of pe... (read more)

Hi. I've been lurking here for a couple of months, reading up on some of the sequences and so forth, I made an account because I wanted to post a few things on the discussion board. Mainly to do with why I'm pretty convinced that immortality is already a thing, and how that has badly damaged my belief in a utilitarian system of ethics. Finally, I wanted to ask about something to do with FAI; essentially, why wouldn't X work. I'm curious to see how FAI will reveal itself to be more fiendish than I already thought.

Hello, everyone! I've been lurking for about a year and I've finally overcome the anxiety I encounter whenever I contemplate posting. More accurately, I'm experiencing enough influences at this very moment to feel pulled strongly to comment.

I've just tumbled to the fact that I may have an instinctive compulsion against the sort of signalling that's often discussed here and by Robin Hanson. In the last several hours alone I've gone far out of my way to avoid signalling membership in an ingroup or adherence to a specific cohort. Is this sort of compulsion co... (read more)

1Viliam_Bur7ySpeaking for myself, (a) I am not good at playing social games, therefore I hate environments where things like signalling are the only important thing, and (b) joining any faction feels to me like indirectly supporting all their mistakes, which I would rather avoid.
0[anonymous]7yWelcome! I myself recently dared to step in and become an active member here. Have you read Dewey and Wright Mills? In that case, what do you think about them?

Hello!

My name is Tommi, and I'm a 34-years old Finn living in Berlin at the moment. I work as a freelance developer, focusing on the Unity development environment, making educational games, regular games, virtual art galleries, etc. for an hourly fee (so that's the skill set I bring into the community). I found Less Wrong some years ago via HPMOR (I forget how I found HPMOR). I've read it occasionally, but over the last year or so I've been slowly gravitating towards it, and decided now to make the effort to try on this community.

I've always valued reason ... (read more)

1Viliam_Bur7yJust what I want to do!!! I believe social skills make a huge difference in one's life. I also believe that most people underestimate this because they are not aware of the benefits that being popular could bring them. Sometimes changing your environment brings better results. But these two options are not mutually exclusive. You can have a great preferred environment and be able to navigate successfully the rest of the world -- because you have to interact with the rest of the world to achieve many things you want. Even to explore it to find the good parts of the environment.

Hello, I'm new to LessWrong. I was hoping someone could help me with a technical problem I'm having. I posted this same problem on the open thread under the discussion page, but I thought I'd be more likely to get a response here. It's to do with the LessWrong wiki. I made an account called Tryagainslowly on it; it wouldn't let me use my LessWrong account, instead making me register for the wiki independently. I wanted to post in the discussion for the wiki page entitled "Rationality". The discussion page didn't have anything posted in it. I wrot... (read more)

0Viliam_Bur7yDid you realize that "here" refers to a three months old article (on a website that has new articles every day)? For future, you are more likely to get a quick response in the most recent Open Thread. (There are articles called "Open Thread" in the "Discussion" section of the website.)
0Tryagainslowly7yIt works now! It just required waiting a bit.

Hello to all, although I am quite new to this site I have been exploring it ever since I first found it. I am an undergraduate mathematics and physics student with the goal to get a PhD in mathematics with a specialization in game theory and/or decision theory. Throughout my schooling I have constantly been bored with the lackluster mathematics that have been shoved in my face so consequently I have constantly been doing extra studying and research on my own. During one of my information binges I came across what is known as 'timeless decision theory' that... (read more)

Hello, I am Connor (18) from Victoria, Australia. I have been at LW a few times before but usually only as a brief look after being drawn into it from a link. As of today, I have decided to actually stay and properly look into it all (The Sequences, discussions, etc) and learn.

I am a student learning economics and business management. I mostly got interested in rationalism because of two fundamental reasons. Firstly through my upbringing and in extension personality, where my father taught me to be highly sceptical of assumptions (Ironically, he himself is... (read more)

Hi there everyone, happy mid-winter festive period.

I'm V (not from the film), 33, and living in the wilds of the UK, for now. I became very sick when I was 16 and essentially slept through my late teens and 20s so I'm playing catch up with a vengeance. I found the site through a friend and I've been a (silent, shadowy) member for a while but hadn't been able to carve out the time to get through the sequences, until now.

I'm a final year Applied Maths and Computer Science student but I'm also really interested in cognitive science, rationality, philosophy an... (read more)

Hi! I am socially retarded... There are many things the standard human was born with the capacity to grasp that I never can. The word "autism" appears to me to be being thrown around a lot lately, mostly as a meaningless word used to convey that one thinks another is simply not normal but when I first noticed how heavily users on the internet threw around the word two years ago I identified as such for a bit to make conversation more expedient. I am able to comprehend metaphors and similes and such for some reason, but things such as having the c... (read more)

3Weedlayer7yEdit: I misunderstood what you said by "rationalize", sorry. As Polymath said, rationalization means "To try to justify an irrational position later"", basically making excuses. Anyway, I wouldn't worry about the downvotes, based on this post the people downvoting you probably weren't being passive aggressive, but rather misinterpreted what you posted. It can take a little while to learn the local beliefs and jargon.
2polymathwannabe7yHi, Hoofwall. Welcome to LessWrong. I have considered the label "autistic" to describe myself at some points in the past, but now I'm not sure. I may be at another point in the spectrum, or I may be just imagining things. But I can definitely empathize with anyone who struggles to make themselves understood to humans. I'm confused about one point: Your usage of the verb " to rationalize" suggests that you intend it for a meaning that is slightly different from the standard meaning it has in logical jargon. We usually say that someone is "rationalizing" when they make an irrational decision and then, afterwards, make up an excuse to keep feeling good about it. I suspect that's not what you meant when you used that word; it feels like it would have been clearer to use the verb "to reason." Of course, this is only my speculation. Please correct me if I'm wrong. (Within the rationalist culture prevalent in this forum, correcting other people when they're wrong is socially accepted as something you can do, but also, accepting corrections when you're wrong is something you're expected to do.)
0hoofwall7yHi. I did indeed mean what you express as "to reason" when I said "rationalize"... I am entirely unfamiliar with the distinctions made on this site so thanks for pointing out to me how others might misinterpret what I say. Also, thanks for the welcome. Sorry for using you like this but, do you know whether or not swearing is against the rules here, and if so would you please tell me if it is or not? The closest to a rule list I found was just about etiquette. I'm wondering whether or not uttering like the "n word" for instance would get me banned or something... I want to know how much freedom I have for expression here. I don't intend to spam or anything; I just want to know what I am allowed to do.
0polymathwannabe7yThis [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/FAQ#Site_Etiquette_and_Social_Norms] is the official etiquette policy. However, it is true that it offers very little guidelines about what language is allowed. From what I've perceived here, people are very formal and behave like adults, i.e. I haven't seen anyone throwing angry insults or wishing someone were dead or using hateful terms toward a demographic group. In short, this is not the YouTube comments section.

Hello folks! I'm new to your site here and still trying to get my bearings. :) The navigation is pretty nonstandard, hence somewhat confusing to me. I found this website from a link my friend posted on a Facebook discussion we had. Since then I've got one question that keeps bugging me, so I decided to ask it here. As I understand, this thread (is this the equivalent of a forum thread?) is a good place to do it. :)

The question is this: I've got a theory which seems (to me) so simple and obvious and able to explain all human behavior that I'm surprised that... (read more)

Welcome!

Short introduction to navigation: Clicking the "Discussion" link at the top of the page will show you (most of) the new articles. If you write comments there, you are most likely to receive replies.

If there is something called "Open Thread", that pretty much means: feel free to ask or say anything (as long as it is at least somewhat relevant to this website, but even that is not always necessary). Also, posting in the most recent open thread will give you more visitors and thus more replies than posting in a three months old article. As of today, the most recent open thread is here, but tomorrow a new one will be started, and it may be strategic to wait.

humans will always choose to do the action which they think will bring them most pleasure/least pain. ... and quite often we get it totally wrong.

Well, if you put it this way, it is almost impossible to find a counterexample, because for literally any situation where "a person X did Y", you can say "that's because X somehow believed Y will bring them most pleasure / least pain", and even if I say "but in this specific situation that doesn't make any sense", you can say &q... (read more)

3Vilx-7yAhh, I see. Thank you! This is exactly what I was looking for! :) Back to thinking. :)
0Vilx-7yHmm... I've given it some thought (more to come later, for sure), but there's already one thing I've found this theory useful for. There have been times when I've caught myself doing/desiring things that I should not do/desire. I then asked myself the question - so why do I do/desire this thing? What pleasure/pain motivates me here? Answers to these questions were not immediately available, but after some time doing introspection, I've come up with them. After that it was a simple matter of changing these motivators to rid myself of the unwanted behavior. So... yes, I think it can be used for predicting stuff (like, "if I change X, then behavior Y will also change"). Now, the information needed for these predictions is hard to come by (but not impossible!). Essentially you need to know/guess what a person is thinking/feeling. But once you have that, you can predict what they will do and how to influence them. What's your opinion on this?
1Viliam_Bur7yWhat you describe as "simple" here, is extremely difficult for me. (There are many possible explanations for why it is so, and I am not sure which one of them is the correct one.) Generally what you described seems like a part of the correct explanation... but there are other parts, such as biology, environment, etc. For example, if my goal is to exercise regularly, I should a) think about my goals, imagine the consequences, think about the costs, and solve the internal conflicts... but also b) do some strategic activities, such as find where the nearest gym is, or maybe buy some exercise equipment to home, and c) check my health to see there is no biological problem such as e.g. anemia making me chronically tired.
0TommiH7yAn alternative explanation I can think of is the placebo effect. It's possible that your behaviour Y changed after changing X, because you believed behaviour Y would change. Especially as you wanted to change those behaviours in the first place. Also, even if this was not due to placebo effect, it's only evidence on how your mind works. Other people's minds might work differently. (And I suspect it's also quite weak as evidence goes, though I can't seem to articulate why I think so. At the very least I think you'd need a very big sample size of behaviour changes, without forgetting to consider also the failed attempts at changing your behaviour.)
0[anonymous]7yHey. You suck.

Thank you for this article. I'm finding it still difficult to navigate the site in terms of comments and posts. Would it be possible to edit some more explanation in the "site mechanics" portion of this article to include an explanation of what open threads are and how to use them?

2John_Maxwell6yOpen threads are for things that aren't important enough for either a toplevel post or a discussion post. You use them just like you used the welcome thread: leave a comment and let people respond :)

Hello, everyone!

LW came to my attention not so long ago, and I've been commited to reading it since that moment about a month ago. I am a 20-year old linguist from Moscow, finishing my bachelor's. Due to my age, I've been pondering with usual questions of life for the past few years, searching for my path, my philosophy, essentially, a best way to live for me.

I studied a lot of religions, philosophies, and they all seemed really flat, essentially because of the reasons stated in some articles here. I came close to something resembling a nice way to live... (read more)

4Lumifer7yThat is not so. There is a certain overlap between the population of rationalists and the population of altruists, people from this set intersection are unusually well represented on LW. But there is no "ought" here -- it's perfectly possible to be a non-altruist rationalist or to be a non-rational altruist.
3Gram_Stone7yWelcome, Ozyrus. This is moral philosophy you're getting into, so I don't think that there's a community-wide consensus. LessWrong is big, and I've read more of the stuff about psychology and philosophy of language than anything else, rather than the stuff on moral philosophy, but I'll take a swing at this. It seems that your implicit question is, "If rationality makes people more effective at doing things that I don't value, then should the ideas of rationality be spread?" That depends on how many people there are with values that are inconsistent with yours, and it also depends on how much it makes people do things that you do value. And I would contend that a world full of more rational people would still be a better world than this one even if it means that there are a few sadists who are more effective for it. There are murderers who kill people with guns, and this is bad; but there are many, many more soldiers who protect their nations with guns, and the existence of those nations allow much higher standards of living than would be otherwise possible, and this is good. There are more good people than evil people in the world. But it's also true that sometimes people can for the first time follow their beliefs to their logical conclusions and, as a result, do things that very few people value [http://lesswrong.com/lw/18b/reason_as_memetic_immune_disorder/]. Jack doesn't have to do anything. If 'rationality' doesn't get you what you want, then you're not being rational. Forget about Jack; put yourself in Jack's situation. If you had already made your choice, and you killed all of those people, would you regret it? I don't mean "Would you feel bad that all of those people had died, but you would still think that you did the right thing?" I mean, if you could go back and do it again, would you do it differently? If you wouldn't change it, then you did the right thing. If you would change it, then you did the wrong thing. Rationality isn't a goal in itself, rati
1Ozyrus7yExcellent answer! Yes, you deducted the implicit question right. I also agree that this is a rather abstract field of moral philosophy, though i did not see that at first. Although I don't think that your argument for the world being a better place with everyone being rational holds up, especially this point Even if there are, there is no proof that after becoming "rational" they will not become "bad" (apostrophes because bad is not defined sufficiently, but that'll do.). I can imagine some interesting prospect for experiments in this field by the way. I also think that the result will vary if the subject is placed in society of only-rationalists vs usual society - with "bad" actions carried out more in the second example, as there is much less room for cooperation. But of course that is pointless discussion, as the situation is not really based on reality in any way and we can't really tell what will happen. :)
[-][anonymous]7y 2

Hello world.

I am new to the community, but I have read through the most part of the major sequences before I registered. I found this site by reading Eliezer´s Harry Potter fanfic hpmor. It was really good by the way. I am happy to learn about biases and how to overcome them and how to optimize certain things.

I am fairly intelligent and I am a VERY philosophical person.

1Viliam_Bur7yHave you considered the effect of selection? From USA, you usually hear about the stupid stuff, because that's what makes interesting news. (Also, exaggerating all the bad things from the "decadent West" has a long tradition in Russian propaganda.) From your own country, you spend most time with your circle of educated people.
0[anonymous]7yYes, I have considered it. We have no russian propaganda in Finland. Overall, finnish people don´t like Russia very much. I don´t spend much time with educated people right now either. But I agree that selection somehow may have something to do with it.

Hello everyone, first post. My education level is Associate's. My special skills include mathematics and reading comprehension.

I come to this website, because as I look at the rationalist techniques I can't think to myself, "This is a skill that would be beneficial to learn." I have done some preliminary reading of some of the posts here and find that while a lot of it is rather chewy (that is, taking extra time to process mentally), it is genuinely enjoyable to peruse and be made to think.

I have a question. Considering that I am religious,... (read more)

0[anonymous]7yWell, the meta-level of what you said is "Updating beliefs when evidence is against them is not always beneficial." I think there are articles here that challenge this kind of meta although I cannot point to them, I am fairly new here. But I still see the issue namely how exactly do you decide, by what algorithm, what other beliefs of yours you want to update when evidence is against them and what not? So it seems you will have to competing motives, to execute the truth-seeking algorithm and the belief-defending one and they may weaken each other. Yet, I think with some compartmentalization it can work but it may be difficult. To put it different words, you can simply put a taboo on full-on truth-seeking wrt religion and let the truth-seeking algorithm run elsewhere, but you have a reason, an algorithm for that taboo, maybe not fully conscious and that may conflict your truth-seeking algorithm in other fields in more subtle ways: perhaps not handing out an clear obvious taboo, but biasing results. Or to be blunt: non-rationality has reasons and methods too, and thus leaks out from compartments and contaminates. Just my 2 cents, I am also a beginning learner here.
0[anonymous]7yDepends on how much effect your religion has on you. I doubt you'll be any less rational if you go to church every day although you may end up loathing it one day. If anybody has a link to the post that Eliezer told a story about how he was told to "pray and (literally) stfu" you'll have a good example of how religion can screw up reasoning. You can still reason effectively in religion irrelevant to how true it is, but you're probably going to encounter something you'll say "this doesn't make sense" and you will one day encounter someone who WILL do something entirely paradoxial while wearing their chosen religious headwear.
2[anonymous]7yTo be fair, this kind of example is a bit extreme. I used to read edwardfeser.blogspot.com and he fails at being empiricist, but does not fail at logical reasoning. His only - albeit catastrophic - failure is "X follows from the premises we accepted to be true, hence reality works like X". Map-terrain... However, even Feser could not make a useful ratonalist because of this failure at empiricism. Unwilling to step over the map-terrain gap, the language-reality gap. Really, the primarily problem of Feser type smart theists is not that they cannot reason, it is that they believe too much in language. Theism almost follows from that failure mode, as language is a mind-product, so when they believe reality works so that that the arguments expressed in words, which tend to convince human minds also happen to be true out there in reality, almost assumes there is a human-like mind behind the universe. Proper atheism starts with the idea of accepting the universe does not give half a shit about our logic, reasoning and intellectuality and we can find ideas perfectly convincing and we can admit they are true and out there still they aren't: but that is really hard as it means really throwing out much of our intellectual history and tradition. It is an incredible huge gap for a culture that got shaped by e.g. Plato to say - and we MUST say this - "Your ideas convinced me perfectly. They are still not true."
0[anonymous]7yNo, it's a great example of EVERYTHING (not just religion) going to shit because it basically says "don't think, do". It's not any less harmful even if we remove religion from there. It can apply to.. practically everything. I think it's sound personal philosophy to know what the fuck you're actually doing. Hell, it's probably the first step in making a plan and it's a step in every process of it.
[-][anonymous]7y 2

Hello all, I'm new to this site. I've stumbled across this website a few times, and have been interested in its implications on philosophy. I am here in a position of scepticism about the claims and projects this site wishes to advance. I suspect most of my posts in the recent future will be critiques of other things found on this website. I hope I make some friends, and not too many enemies.

2ChristianKl7yWhat do you understand those to be?
0[anonymous]7yI do not fully know yet.
4ChristianKl7yWhat do you mean when you say you are skeptic of ideas that you don't know?
0[anonymous]7yYou do not need to fully understand something to approach it with skeptically.
4ChristianKl7yYes, but then it says more about your general approach to things you don't understand then it says something about the subject. You also didn't answer the question. What do you actually mean when you say, that you are skeptic?
0[anonymous]7yNo; it tells you about my approach to LessWrong based on what I know of LessWrong. I hope you are familiar with the word skeptic. If not, I recommend you read a dictionary entry on it, and perhaps look up its usage in literature. If you mean "what precisely do I mean when I say I am a approaching LessWrong skeptically", I mean that I will be reading carefully through articles on LessWrong, looking for potential flaws and failings, and generally maintaining a high degree of doubt over anything said or implied. I have to add that this welcoming thread isn't very welcoming.
2ChristianKl7yI'm familiar enough to know that different people use it to mean different things. Asking people to explain in detail what they mean is called "tabooing" [http://lesswrong.com/lw/nu/taboo_your_words/] on LW. It helps with rational thinking. Of course your are skeptic about the value of explaining what you mean. That's alright. It takes mental effort to value clear thinking and most people are not used to engage in that effort. This might seem unwelcoming because I don't allow you to easily get away with a vague statement and confront you on an intellectual level. But that's not the point, I welcome you by engaging you.
-2[anonymous]7yYeah, you would not make a good host if you welcomed your guests by interrogating them. 'Of course your are skeptic about the value of explaining what you mean' - what on earth does this mean? 'It takes mental effort to value clear thinking and most people are not used to engage in that effort' - great concealed insult. Not quite obvious enough to make you look bad, but with enough "I'm superior to you"-ness to put me down. 'This might seem unwelcoming because I don't allow you to easily get away with a vague statement and confront you on an intellectual level' - nope, it's unwelcoming because you are excessively pedantic, and because you aren't very nice (e.g. the concealed insult). As a note, I do not have the time nor patience to look through everything linked to me. Also, how do you quote on this website?
1dxu7yWhat you call "pedantry", some people call "clear communication". I don't want to sound condescending, but to understand discussions, you may have to. This is not an absolute rule, but it is a good rule of thumb that when someone links you somewhere, it's a good idea to at least click on that link. Quotes are written by prefacing whatever you want to quote with a "greater-than" character: ">". For instance, "> Hello." would appear as EDIT: Also, note that this notation only works if you begin your quote on a new line. Using a ">" symbol in the middle of a paragraph, for instance, won't do anything.
1ChristianKl7yBeing a good host means creating an environment in which the right people feel welcome. On LW the right people happen to be people who like to explain how they reason. You started by saying you are skeptical about this website way of handling things. I answered with a standard way of this websites way of handling things. Asking you to taboo a term you used, without specifically using the word "taboo" because it's internal jargon. As you said at the beginning you are indeed skeptical of ideas of this website. Tabooing happens to be one of them. It's a new concept for you and for you being skeptical is not about philosophical skepticism but about having a high bar to adopting new concepts.
0dxu7yThis statement is slightly stronger than I would word it. In particular, since Perrr333 has expressed that he/she does not feel welcome, combining that fact with this statement would imply one of the following conclusions: 1. LessWrong is not being a good host. 2. Perrr333 is not one of the "right people" for LessWrong. I don't believe 1 is true, and I don't think you can determine the truth of 2 after so little time. As a result, I don't quite agree with the quoted statement above. Is that statement really what you meant to say?
0ChristianKl7yMy statements are polarized. Polarization has the advantage of making clear points. LW is a forum. It's not a host. As long as he's not willing to be asked why he believes what he believes ('being interrogated"), he's not in that category. Not being willing to go there, leads to a lot of pointless debates for the sake of debating. On the other hand it's something that he can easily change if he's willing.
0dxu7yFair enough. Still, wouldn't you say LW should at least strive to provide a fairly pleasant environment for its frequenters? I don't really disagree with this, but I'm not sure his behavior in this thread alone can be used as a reliable indicator of whether he's willing to be "interrogated". Possibly he may be more receptive to questioning in other threads.
2dxu7yThis is generally referred to around here as "maintaining good epistemic hygiene", and it's considered a fairly normal practice. There's no particular need to give it a special name like "skepticism", especially when that word already has a philosophical meaning [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/skepticism/]. Moreover, if you come onto any website (not just LessWrong) and say something like "I am here in a position of scepticism about the claims and projects this site wishes to advance," naturally people will think you are referring to specific claims. If they then ask you which claims you are referring to, and you say "I don't know," it's only expected that people will react with confusion and (probably) will not warm up all that much to you. It's almost like a sort of bait-and-switch; you start off (seemingly) claiming one thing (either explicitly or implicitly) and then reveal that you were talking about something else all along. We have a name for that on this site as well: logical rudeness [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1p1/logical_rudeness/]. In general, saying (or implying, at least) in your first comment on a new site you are joining that you disagree with many of its claims is not likely to lead to welcoming responses. This is not because residents are trying to be unpleasant; rather, it is because they are simply following the flow of the conversation. Consider the following exchange: B's response is something of a nonsequitur, and in fact does not address what most people would perceive to be the meat of A's comment: that A is skeptical of many of the claims this site has to offer. More realistic would be the following conversation: And if you look closely at the first two comments in this thread, you'll see that this is exactly what happened. Nothing hostile going on. If A then goes on to reply "I don't know", well, then people might start to find A's position slightly strange. But there's no "unwelcoming" vibe going on here, I don't think. (But since y
0[anonymous]7yI am aware of the philosophical meaning. If you don't mind, I'd prefer to just use regular terminology rather than your site-specific terminology. I've been around the block of debating sites, and none of them have gotten so defensive when I've simply stating I'm approaching their claims skeptically. Stating you wish to approach something skeptically without stating exactly what you are approaching seems sensible to me. Also, it seems rather silly to me that your response to me effectively saying "I feel unwelcome" is "Every reply has been legitimate!!!!". I didn't say anyone had been unreasonable, I just said I feel unwelcome. And your reply certainly hasn't changed that.
4dxu7yThen you should be aware that the way in which you used the term is not in line with its philosophical meaning. This was not, in fact, your original wording. From your original comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/le5/welcome_to_less_wrong_7th_thread_december_2014/byav] : Specifically, you singled out "this site", i.e. LessWrong, as the one whose claims you were approaching skeptically, suggesting that there was something in particular about LessWrong which you found disagreeable. The connotations of your original comment and the ones you are offering now are radically different, even if they may be denotatively similar. The practice of picking up on (and sending) said connotations is a crucial element of any social interaction, so if people are apparently interpreting your words incorrectly, you should take that as evidence that you were unclear and seek to be more clear in the future, rather than waste time defending your original wording. A simple "Sorry, you misunderstood me; this is what I actually meant" would have sufficed. Again, your original wording [http://lesswrong.com/lw/le5/welcome_to_less_wrong_7th_thread_december_2014/bz48] : This is not a statement about your own state of mind; rather it is a claim of what (presumably) you regard as an objective aspect of this thread (whether it is "welcoming" or not). Again, your time could better be spent simply providing a clarification rather than arguing that said clarification is what you said in the first place. No need to bring up "I didn't say this; I said that"; instead, just say "I meant to say that". As a more general statement: LessWrong as a community places extremely great emphasis on clear communication. Often, we find that a good majority of disagreements can be avoided simply by having all participants state their position clearly in the beginning, rather than having said position remain unclear or nebulously defined, eventually devolving into arguments about the definition of a word [http://less
1ChristianKl7yThis is no debating side. It a side for rational discourse about how to reason. As such we talk about the subject of how to reason. Not to defend something but because we care about how to reason and your particular way of reasoning. You said that you don't understand what the website is about and people try to explain it to you. If you don't want to understand the local terminology you won't understand LW. You didn't you said people acted unwelcome. That's something different than saying you feel unwelcome even by conventional standards of language.
[-][anonymous]7y 2

Been looking for this for a few moments. I don't see much to expand on myself. I found out about LW when someone pointed me to the 1000-year old vampire post which I really liked.

And that's almost enough for now. I tried using the search but I didn't get the thing I wanted. All or fucking nothing I guess: What's the best way to ask a girl out?

"Best" means a lot of things that I'm naturally not aware of otherwise I wouldn't be asking this :) But true, I feel like there's a lot of things to account for in "best" that I might not be realis... (read more)

4chaosmage7yI'm guessing here, but it sounds like you have a very common problem, which people usually call "fear of rejection" but I think should be called "no plan for rejection". We instinctively avoid situations we don't feel able to handle, and in anyone able to think ahead, this includes situations that might lead into situations we don't feel able to handle. And that can feel like now's not the time. A popular method for fixing this is The Rejection Game. Ask for something and get rejected, once per day, for a month. Your requests should be somewhat ridiculous, so you'll get rejected even though you're super polite and respectful. (Ask salespeople for discounts, for example.) After rejection, don't give up immediately, but negotiate a bit - this gives you something to do and should get you rejected more firmly. Also, it might help to pretend they're boys. Bonus prize: If you handle rejection really well, you get additional attempts later. Magic!
-2[anonymous]7yWhat makes you draw a line between what I've said to a fear of rejection? I have a philosophy of always trying to stretch my limits but I know the difference between reckless foolishness and planning ahead. The main plan is to do it. The smaller details are basically the steps. I've been rejected a position I'd really have liked to have today. I'll try to negotiate next time (not on the dates I guess cause that really feels like I'm kissing her ass) I do need something though. Also great in case the person rejected me for some devious reason. (I'm looking for a another job now. No reason to dwell on a no.) But here's another question in addition to the line-drawing one: Assuming I get this rejection thing done and I'm not fearful or rejections, how does that one-up my chances? How much am I going to get other than the bonus prize? It also seems this rejection thing is heading towards quantity and not quality. Also, it sounds like the thing being rejected doesn't seem to haave much weight. You'd definitely feel worse if you've been rejected something that's important to you. Naturally, that's no reason to dwell too much on it, but sometimes I honestly wonder if I did a few things better, would I have a better outcome? EDIT: Also I'm going to try this rejection thing for the laughs of it. Let's see how funny it can get.
3chaosmage7yThe quality of your query isn't entirely unimportant - you can lose a chance with poor quality - but the person asked will usually have lots of other reasons that play into their decision, and most of them you'll never know. In the absence of this information, what you have is an opinion on the quality of your request, so naturally that's what you focus on to optimize; but that doesn't mean this is the decisive variable in the average case. It makes it easier to actually try. As long as you still feel "now's not the time", worrying about the quality of what you'd say if you actually did is not an efficient use of your attention. You're right, the rejection game is about quantity not quality, and that's because people have found quantity makes more of a difference.
3[anonymous]7yYou're saying that I'm dwelling too much on avoiding rejection even though I'm thinking I'm optimizing my chances, right? Oh fucking hell. Maybe I did miss a few chances now that I think about it.
1Alicorn7yDo you have a girl in mind or do you mean generally speaking?
-1[anonymous]7yA specific one in mind? I actually have a few girls I'd like to ask out. But I'd suppose a general solution would probably have a better a specifically optimized one. I'd like to be greedy and ask for both, as I assume the answer will be different depending on how I answer. So "yes" and "no". :)
-11hairyfigment7y
[-][anonymous]6y 0

Hey guys, I'll ask something I've been thinking about here since I don't have the karma to make a thread yet:

Does slowing the population growth decrease existential risk?

With fewer people around it's less likely any of them will use dangerous technology, and thus more time to get the technology under control and make counter-measures.

If that's the case, then the next question is whether there are any effective ways of reducing population growth, like access to birth control for example.

Less people may slow down the progress of science, but not that much I'... (read more)

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

HI. Curt Doolittle. I follow LW via Feedly, but today someone asked me to comment on a LW article. I write analytic philosophy in epistemology (specifically truth), ethics, law, politics and science. I'm reasonably well known and easy to find on the web.

Here is my response to the recent post on Signaling by Outliers (Hipster analogy). You can use it as a test of worthiness.


All, Thank you for asking me to respond. I'll convert it from signaling (the author's criticism and somewhat humorous demonstration of signaling), from moral justification, to ... (read more)

0Lumifer7yWhich one?