Rationality Quotes June 2013

by Thomas1 min read3rd Jun 2013791 comments


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

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, Overcoming Bias, or HPMoR.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.
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Hofstadter on the necessary strangeness of scientific explanations:

It is no accident, I would maintain, that quantum mechanics is so wildly counterintuitive. Part of the nature of explanation is that it must eventually hit some point where further probing only increases opacity rather than decreasing it. Consider the problem of understanding the nature of solids. You might wonder where solidity comes form. What if someone said to you, "The ultimate basis of this brick's solidity is that it is composed of a stupendous number of eensy weensy bricklike objects that themselves are rock-solid"? You might be interested to learn that bricks are composed of micro-bricks, but the initial question - "What accounts for solidity?" - has been thoroughly begged. What we ultimately want is for solidity to vanish, to dissolve, to disintegrate into some totally different kind of phenomenon with which we have no experience. Only then, when we have reached some completely novel, alien level will we feel that we have really made progress in explaining the top-level phenomenon.


I first saw this thought expressed in the stimulating book Patterns of Discovery by Norwood Russell

... (read more)

Why Opium produces sleep: ... Because there is in it a dormitive power.

Moliere, Le Malade Imaginere (1673), Act III, sc. iii.

A lesson here is that if you ask "Why X?" then any answer of the form "Because " is not actually progress toward understanding.

Synonyms are not good for explaining... because there is no explanatory power in them.

I found your post funny... because it amused me.

Why is there that knee-jerk rejection of any effort to "overthink" pop culture? Why would you ever be afraid that looking too hard at something will ruin it? If the government built a huge, mysterious device in the middle of your town and immediately surrounded it with a fence that said, "NOTHING TO SEE HERE!" I'm pretty damned sure you wouldn't rest until you knew what the hell that was -- the fact that they don't want you to know means it can't be good.

Well, when any idea in your brain defends itself with "Just relax! Don't look too close!" you should immediately be just as suspicious. It usually means something ugly is hiding there.

Ah, David Wong. A few movies in the post-9/11 era begin using terrorism and asymmetric warfare as a plot point? Proof that Hollywood no longer favors the underdog. Meanwhile he ignores... Daredevil, Elektra, V for Vendetta, X-Men, Kickass, Punisher, and Captain America, just to name the superhero movies I've seen which buck the trend he references, and within the movies he himself mentions, he intentionally glosses over 90% of the plots in order to make his point "stick." In some cases (James Bond, Sherlock Holmes) he treats the fact that the protagonists win as the proof that they weren't the underdog at all (something which would hold in reality but not in fiction, and a standard which he -doesn't- apply when it suits his purpose, a la his comments about the first three Die Hard movies being about an underdog whereas the most recent movie isn't).

Yeah. Not all that impressed with David Wong. His articles always come across as propaganda, carefully and deliberately choosing what evidence to showcase. And in this case he's deliberately treating the MST3K Mantra as some kind of propaganda-hiding tool? Really?

These movies don't get made because Hollywood billionaires... (read more)

Not that this directly relates to your quote, but I find David Wong to be consistently so deliberate about producing propaganda out of nothing that I cannot take him seriously as a champion of rationality.

It is worth pointing out that this page is about quotes, not people, or even articles. I thought the quote was worth upvoting for:

Well, when any idea in your brain defends itself with "Just relax! Don't look too close!" you should immediately be just as suspicious. It usually means something ugly is hiding there.

Why is there that knee-jerk rejection of any effort to "overthink" pop culture? Why would you ever be afraid that looking too hard at something will ruin it?

I think it's because enjoying fiction involves being in a trance, and analyzing the fiction breaks the trance. I suspect that analysis is also a trance, but it's a different sort of trance.

2[anonymous]8yThe term for that is suspension of disbelief [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspension_of_disbelief].
3Risto_Saarelma8yMaybe the social signaling sensitive unconsciously translate it into "I thought up this unobvious thing about this thing because I am smarter than you", and then file it off as being an asshole about stuff that's supposed to be communal fun?
4Osiris8yIt is not healthy to believe that every curtain hides an Evil Genius (I speak here as a person who lived in the USSR). Given the high failure rate of EVERY human work, I'd say that most secrets in the movie industry have to do with saving bad writing and poor execution with clever marketing and setting up other conflicts people could watch besides the pretty explosions. It's not about selling Imperialism and Decadance to a country that's been accused of both practically since its formation(sorry if you're American and noticed these accusations exist only now in the 21st century), or trying to force people into some new world order-style government where a dictator takes care of every need. Though, I must admit that I wonder about Michael Bay's agenda sometimes... Tony Stark isn't JUST a rich guy with a WMD. He messes up. He fails his friends and loved ones. He is in some way the lowest point in each of our lives, given some nobility. In spite of all those troubles, the fellow stands up and goes on with his life, gets better and tries to improve the world. David Wong seems to have missed the POINT of a couple of movies (how about the message of empowerment-through-determination in Captain America? The fellow must still earn his power as a "runt"), and even worse tries to raise conspiracy theory thinking up as rationality. So, maybe, the knee-jerk reaction is wise, because overanalizing something made to entertain tends to be somewhat similar to seeing shapes in the clouds. Sometimes, Iron Man is just Iron Man.
3ChristianKl8yYou don't need to believe in intent to spread negative values to analyse that spreading negative values is bad.
2linkhyrule57ySeems to me that the problem is, well, precisely as stated: overthinking. It's the same problem as with close reading: look too close at a sample of one and you'll start getting noise, things the author didn't intend and were ultimately caused by, oh, what he had for breakfast on a Tuesday ten months ago and not some ominous plan.
2Desrtopa7yOn the other hand, where do you draw the line between reasonable analysis and overthinking? I mean, you can read into a text things which only your own biases put there in the first place, but on the other hand, the director of Birth of a Nation [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birth_of_a_nation] allegedly didn't intend to produce a racist film. I've argued plenty of times myself that you can clearly go too far, and critics often do, but on the other hand, while the creator determines everything that goes into their work, their intent, as far as they can describe it, is just the rider on the elephant, and the elephant leaves tracks where it pleases.
2DaveK8yWell, I really enjoy music, but I made the deliberate choice to not learn about music (in terms of notes, chords, etc.). The reason being that what I get from music is a profound experience, and I was worried that knowledge of music in terms of reductionist structure might change the way I experience hearing music. (Of course some knowledge inevitably seeps in.)

Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design are full of amazing quotes. My personal favourite:

6) (Mar's Law) Everything is linear if plotted log-log with a fat magic marker.

(See also an interesting note from HN's btilly on this law)


The movie “Apollo 13″ does a fair job of showing how rapidly the engineers in Houston devised the kludge and documented it, but because of time contraints of course they can’t show you everything. NASA is a stickler for details. (Believe me, I’ve worked with them!) They don’t just rapid prototype something that people’s lives will depend upon. Overnight, they not only devised the scrubber adapter built from stuff in the launch manifest, they also tested it, documented it, and sent up stepwise instructions for constructing it. In a high-maturity organization, once you get into the habit of doing that, it doesn’t really take that long. Something that always puzzles me when I meet cowboy engineers who insist that process will just slow them down unacceptably. I tell them that hey, if NASA engineers could design, build, test, and document a CO2 scrubber adapter made from common household items overnight, you can damn well put in a comment when you check in your code changes.

you can't wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.

Edward Snowden, the NSA surveillance whistle-blower.

Imagine you are sitting on this plane now. The top of the craft is gone and you can see the sky above you. Columns of flame are growing. Holes in the sides of the airliner lead to freedom. How would you react?

You probably think you would leap to your feet and yell, "Let's get the hell out of here!" If not this, then you might assume you would coil into a fetal position and freak out. Statistically, neither of these is likely. What you would probably do is far weirder......

In any perilous event, like a sinking ship or towering inferno, a shooting rampage or a tornado, there is a chance you will become so overwhelmed by the perilous overflow of ambiguous information that you will do nothing at all...

about 75 percent of people find it impossible to reason during a catastrophic event or impending doom.

You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney p 55,56, and 58.

3itaibn08yConsidering the probability that I will encounter such a high-impact fast-acting disaster, and the expected benefit of acting on shallowly thought out gut reaction, I feel no need to remove from myself this bias.
5James_Miller8ySince you have taken the time to make a comment on this website I presume you get some pleasure from thinking about biases. The next time you are on an airplane perhaps you would find it interesting to work through how you should respond if the plane starts to burn.

Interestingly enough there is some evidence--or at least assertions by people who've studied this sort of thing--that doing this sort of problem solving ahead of time tends to reduce the paralysis.

When you get on a plane, go into a restaurant, when you're wandering down the street or when you go someplace new think about a few common emergencies and just think about how you might respond to them.

4itaibn08yYes, you're right. In fact, I did think about this situation. I think the best strategy is to enter the brace position recommended in the safety guide and to stay still, while gathering as much information as position and obeying the any person who takes on a leadership role. This sort of reasoning can be useful because it is fun to think about, because it makes for interesting conversation, or because it might reveal an abstract principle that is useful somewhere else. My point is to demonstrate a VOI calculation and to show that although this behavior seems irrational on its own, in the broader context the strategy of being completely unprepared for disaster is a good one. Still, the fact that people act in this particular maladaptive way is interesting, and so I got something out of your quote.

"When two planes collided just above a runway in Tenerife in 1977, a man was stuck, with his wife, in a plane that was slowly being engulfed in flames. He remembered making a special note of the exits, grabbed his wife's hand, and ran towards one of them. As it happened, he didn't need to use it, since a portion of the plane had been sheared away. He jumped out, along with his wife and the few people who survived. Many more people should have made it out. Fleeing survivors ran past living, uninjured people who sat in seats literally watching for the minute it took for the flames to reach them." - http://io9.com/the-frozen-calm-of-normalcy-bias-486764924

6mjankovic8ySpeaking as someone who's been trough that, I don't think that the article gives a complete picture. Part of the problem appears to be (particularly by reports from newer generations) in such instaces is the feeling of unreality, as the only times when we tend to see such situations is when we're sitting comfortably, so a lot of us are essentially conditioned to sit comfortably during such events. However, this does tend to get better with some experience of such situations.
1[anonymous]8yActually, freezing up is precisely what I-here-in-my-room imagine I-on-a-plane-in-flames would do.

Sorry? Of course he was sorry. People were always sorry. Sorry they had done what they had done, sorry they were doing what they were doing, sorry they were going to do what they were going to do; but they still did whatever it was. The sorrow never stopped them; it just made them feel better. And so the sorrow never stopped. ...

Sorrow be damned, and all your plans. Fuck the faithful, fuck the committed, the dedicated, the true believers; fuck all the sure and certain people prepared to maim and kill whoever got in their way; fuck every cause that ended in murder and a child screaming.

Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks.

1simplicio8yI read this as a poetic invocation against utilitarian sacrifices. It seems to me simultaneously wise on a practical level and bankrupt on a theoretical level. What about the special case of people prepared to be maimed and killed in order to get in someone's way? I guess it depends whether you share goals with the latter someone.
7Viliam_Bur8yIf I don't share goals with someone, or more strongly, if I consider their goals evil... then I will see their meta actions differently, because at the end, the meta actions are just a tool for something else [http://lesswrong.com/lw/nb/something_to_protect/]. If some people build a perfect superintelligent paperclip maximizer, I will hate the fact that they were able to overcome procrastination, that they succeeded in overcoming their internal conflicts, that they made good strategical decisions about getting money and smart people for their project, etc. So perhaps the quote could be understood as a complaint against people in the valley of bad rationality. Smart enough to put their plans successfully in action; yet too stupid to understand that their plans will end hurting people. Smart enough to later realize they made a mistake and feel sorry; yet too stupid to realize they shouldn't make a similar kind of plan with similar kinds of mistakes again.

The word gentleman originally meant something recognisable: one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone 'a gentleman' you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not 'a gentleman' you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an M.A. But then there came people who said- so rightly, charitably, spiritually, sensitively, so anything but usefully- 'Ah, but surely the important thing about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behaviour? Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? Surely in that sense Edward is far more truly a gentleman than John?' They meant well. To be honourable and courteous and brave is of course a far better thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse still, it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a man 'a gentleman' in this new, refined sense, becomes, in fact, not a way of giving information about him, but a way of praising him: to deny that he is 'a gentleman' beco

... (read more)

When a word ceases to be a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object; it only tells you about the speaker's attitude to that object.

This is because a speaker's attitude towards an object is not formed by the speaker's perception of the object; it is entirely arbitrary. Wait, no, that's not right.

And anyway, the previous use of the term "gentleman" was, in some sense, worse. Because while it had a neutral denotation ("A gentleman is any person who possesses these two qualities"), it had a non-neutral connotation.

6[anonymous]8ySo Lewis grants that people really can be brave, honorable, and courteous, but then denies that calling someone so is descriptive? This passage does't make any sense.
1Estarlio8yI suspect his attitude is more along the lines of 'noise to signal ratio too high.'

Baroque Cycle by Neal Stphenson proves to be a very good, intelligent book series.

“Why does the tide rush out to sea?”

“The influence of the sun and the moon.”

“Yet you and I cannot see the sun or the moon. The water does not have senses to see, or a will to follow them. How then do the sun and moon, so far away, affect the water?”

“Gravity,” responded Colonel Barnes, lowering his voice like a priest intoning the name of God, and glancing about to see whether Sir Isaac Newton were in earshot.

“That’s what everyone says now. ’Twas not so when I was a lad. We used to parrot Aristotle and say it was in the nature of water to be drawn up by the moon. Now, thanks to our fellow-passenger, we say ‘gravity.’ It seems a great improvement. But is it really? Do you understand the tides, Colonel Barnes, simply because you know to say ‘gravity’?”

Daniel Waterhouse and Colonel Barnes in Solomon’s Gold

9Thomas8yYes, be cause saying 'gravity' in fact means the Newton gravitational law. Aristotle had no idea, that e. g. the product of two masses is involved here.

Does Colonel Barnes? If not, he is just repeating a word he has learned to say. Rather like some people today who have learned to say "entanglement", or "signalling", or "evolution", or...

5[anonymous]8yExcept in this case he's actually saying 'gravity' in the right context, and besides, it's not expected of people in general to know Newton's laws (or general relativity, etc) to know basically how gravity works. Although I'd like to know what his answer was to the last question...

I will gladly post the rest of the conversation because it reminds me of question I pondered for a while.

"Do you understand the tides, Colonel Barnes, simply because you know to say ‘gravity’?”

“I’ve never claimed to understand them.”

“Ah, that is very wise practice.”

“All that matters is, he does,” Barnes continued, glancing down, as if he could see through the deck-planks.

“Does he then?”

“That’s what you lot have been telling everyone. <> Sir Isaac’s working on Volume the Third, isn’t he, and that’s going to settle the lunar problem. Wrap it all up.”

“He is working out equations that ought to agree with Mr. Flamsteed’s observations.”

“From which it would follow that Gravity’s a solved problem; and if Gravity predicts what the moon does, why, it should apply as well to the sloshing back and forth of the water in the oceans.”

“But is to describe something to understand it?”

“I should think it were a good first step.”

“Yes. And it is a step that Sir Isaac has taken. The question now becomes, who shall take the second step?”

After that they started to discuss differences between Newton's and Leibniz theories. Newton is unable to explain why gravity can go through the earth, like... (read more)

Stanislaw Lem wrote a short story about this. (I don't remember its name.)

In the story, English detectives are trying to solve a series of cases where bodies are stolen from morgues and are later discovered abandoned at some distance. There are no further useful clues.

They bring in a scientist, who determines that there is a simple mathematical relationship that relates the times and locations of these incidents. He can predict the next incident. And he says, therefore, that he has "solved" or "explained" the mystery. When asked what actually happens - how the bodies are moved, and why - he simply doesn't care: perhaps, he suggests, the dead bodies move by themselves - but the important thing, the original question, has been answered. If someone doesn't understand that a simple equation that makes predictions is a complete answer to a question, that someone simply doesn't understand science!

Lem does not, of course, intend to give this as his own opinion. The story never answers the "real" mystery of how or why the bodies move; the equation happens to predict that the sequence will soon end anyway.

Amusingly, I read this story, but completely forgot about it. The example here is perfect. Probably I should re-read it.

For those interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Investigation

5ChristianKl8yI think the situation happens because of bias. Demonstrating an empirical effect to be real takes work. Finding an explanation of an effect also takes work. It's very seldom in science that both happens at exactly the same time. Their are a lot of drugs that are designed in a way where we think that the drug works by binding to specific receptors. Those explanations aren't very predictive for telling you whether a prospective drug works. Once it's shown that a drug actually works it's often that we don't fully understand why it does work.
2BT_Uytya8yInteresting. I imagined a world where Wegener appeared, out of blue, with all that data about geological strata and fossils (nobody noticed any of that before), and declared that it's all because of continental drift. That was anticlimactic and unsatisfactory. I imagined a world with a great unsolved mystery: all that data about geological strata and fossils. For a century, nobody is unable to explain it. Then Wegener appeared, and pointed that the shapes of continents are similar, and perhaps it's all because of continental drift. That was more satisfactory, and I suspect that most of traces of disappointment are due to hindsight bias. I think that there are several factors causing that: 1) Story-mode thinking 2) Suspicions concerning the unknown person claiming to solve the problem nobody has ever heard of. 3) (now it's my working hypothesis) The idea that some phenomena are and 'hard' to reduce, and some are 'easy': I know that fall of apple can be explained in terms of atoms, reduced to the fundamental interactions. Most of things can. I know that we are unable to explain fundamental interactions yet, so equations-without-understanding are justified. So, if I learn about some strange phenomenon, I believe that it can be easily explained in terms of atoms. Now suppose that it turned out to be very hard problem, and nobody managed to reduce it to something more fundamental. Now I feel that I should be satisfied with bare equations because making something more is hard. Maybe a century later. This isn't complete explanation, but it feels like a step in the right direction.
2nshepperd8y"For whatever reason, " seems like it should be a legitimate hypothesis, as much as ", therefore ". The former technically being the disjunction of all variations of the latter with possible reasons substituted in. But, then again, at the point when we are saying "for whatever reason, ", we are saying that because we haven't been able to think of the correct explanation yet—that is, because we haven't been creative enough, a bounded rationality issue. So we're perhaps not really in a position to evaluate a disjunction of all possible reasons.
8BT_Uytya8yProbably I should've added some context to this conversation. One of the themes of Baroque Cycle is that Newton described his gravitational law, but said nothing about why the reality is the way it is. This bugs Daniel, and he rests his hopes upon Leibniz who tries to explain reality on the more fundamental level (monads). This conversation is "Explain/Worship/Ignore" thing as well as "Teacher's password" thing.

The reason Newton's laws are an improvement over Aristotelian "the nature of water is etc." is that Newton lets you make predictions, while Aristotle does not. You could ask "but WHY does gravity work like so-and-so?", but that doesn't change the fact that Newton's laws let you predict orbits of celestial objects, etc., in advance of seeing them.

That's certainly the conventional wisdom, but I think the conventional wisdom sells Aristotle and his contemporaries a little short. Sure, speaking in terms of water and air and fire and dirt might look a little silly to us now, but that's rather superficial: when you get down to the experiments available at the time, Aristotelian physics ran on properties that genuinely were pretty well correlated, and you could in fact use them to make reasonably accurate predictions about behavior you hadn't seen from the known properties of an object. All kosher from a scientific perspective so far.

There are two big differences I see, though neither implies that Aristotle was telling just-so stories. The first is that Aristotelian physics was mainly a qualitative undertaking, not a quantitative one -- the Greeks knew that the properties of objects varied in a mathematically regular way (witness Erastothenes' clever method of calculating Earth's circumference), but this wasn't integrated closely into physical theory. The other has to do with generality: science since Galileo has applied as universally as possible, though some branches reduced faster than others, but the Greeks and their medieval followers were much more willing to ascribe irreducible properties to narrow categories of object. Both end up placing limits on the kinds of inferences you'll end up making.

Bad things don't happen to you because you're unlucky. Bad things happen to you because you're a dumbass.

  • That 70s Show

Single bad things happen to you at random. Iterated bad things happen to you because you're a dumbass. Related: "You are the only common denominator in all of your failed relationships."

Corollaries: The more of a dumbass you are, the less well you can recognize common features in iterated bad things. So dumbasses are, subjectively speaking, just unlucky.

The corollary is more useful than the theorem:-) If I wish to be less of a dumbass, it helps to know what it looks like from the inside. It looks like bad luck, so my first job is to learn to distinguish bad luck from enemy action. In Eliezer's specific example that is going to be hard because I need to include myself in my list of potential enemies.

6Eliezer Yudkowsky8y(That's fair.)
4Kawoomba8yAlso, oxygen. (Edit: "You are the only common denominator in all of your failed relationships." is misleading, hiding all the other common elements.)

What we want to find is the denominator common to all of your failed relationships, but absent from the successful relationships that other people have (the presumed question being "why do all my relationships fail, but Alice, Bob, Carol, etc. have successful ones?"). Oxygen doesn't fit the bill.

5Error8yIt could also be that Alice, Bob, and Carol's relationships appear more successful than they are. We do tend to hide our failures when we can. I've heard the failed-relationships quote before, but hadn't seen it generalized to bad things in general. I like that one. Useful corollary: "Iterated bad things are evidence of a pattern of errors that you need to identify and fix."

Of course, "bad things", and even more so "iterated bad things", have to be viewed relative to expectations, and at the proper level of abstraction. Explanation:

Right level of abstraction

"I punched myself in the face six times in a row, and each time, it hurt. But this is not mere bad luck! I conclude that I am bad at self-face-punching! I must work on my technique, such that I may be able to punch myself in the face without ill effect." This is the wrong conclusion. The right conclusion is "abstain from self-face-punching".

Substitute any of the following for "punching self in face":

  • Extreme sports
  • Motorcycle riding
  • Fad diets
  • Prayer

Right expectations

"I've tried five brands of water, and none of them tasted like chocolate candy! My water-brand-selection algorithm must be flawed. I will have to be even more careful about picking only the fanciest brands of water." Again this is the wrong conclusion. The right conclusion is "This water is just fine and there was nothing wrong with my choice of brand. I simply shouldn't have such ridiculous expectations."

Substitute any of the following for "brands of water&qu... (read more)

5Error8yAh, I've been in that job. My favorite in the stupid-expectations department was a customer who expected us to lie about the cause of a failure on the work order, so that his insurance company would cover the repair. When we refused, he made his own edits to his copy of the work order....and a few days later brought the machine back (I forget why) and handed us the edited order. We photocopied it (without telling him) and filed it with our own copy. That was entertaining when the insurance company called.
4Cthulhoo8yThis can be easily generalized as an algorithm. * Something repeatedly goes wrong * Identify correctly your prior hypothesis * Identify the variables involved * Check/change the variables * Observe the result (apply bayes when needed) * Repeat if necessary Scientific method applied to everiday life, if you want :)
4NancyLebovitz8yThe thing is, some of the steps are very vague. If you have a bad case of insufficient clue, what's the cure?
3Kawoomba8y"You are the only common denominator in all of your failed relationships." != "Why do all my relationships fail?" Both you and others have relationships, both "failed" and "not-failed" (for some value of failed). The statement "You are the only common denominator in all of your failed relationships" is clearly false, even if comparing to others who have successful ones in search of differentiating factors. The "only" is the problem even then.
3Said Achmiz8yThe intended formulation, I should think, is "You are the only denominator guaranteed to be common to all of your failed relationships" (which is to say that it might be a contingent fact about your particular set of failed relationships that it has some more common denominators, but for any set of all of any particular person's failed relationships, that person will always, by definition, be common to them all). Even this might be false when taken literally... so perhaps we need to qualify it just a bit more: "You are the only interesting denominator guaranteed to be common to all of your failed relationships." (i.e. if we consider only those factors along which relationships-in-general differ from each other, i.e. those dimensions in relationship space which we can't just ignore). That, I think, is a reasonable, charitable reading of the original quote.
3Kawoomba8yIt's not nitpicking on my side, there are plenty of people who tend to blame themselves for anything going wrong, even when it was outside their control. Maybe they lived in a neighborhood incompatible to themselves, especially pre-social media. Think of 'nerds' stranded in classes without peers. Sure, their behavior was involved in the success or failure of their relationships (how could it not have been?). However, a mindset and pseudo-wise aphorisms such as "you are the only common denominator in all of your failed relationships" would be fueling an already destructive fire of gnawing self-doubt with more gasoline.
5Said Achmiz8yI agree. This sort of thing... can be viewed as a case of "wrong level of abstraction" as I alluded to here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hlk/rationality_quotes_june_2013/93eb]. I think what we have here is two possible sources of error, diametrically opposed to each other. Some people refuse to take responsibility for their failures, and it is at them that "you are the only common denominator ..." is aimed. Other people blame themselves even when they shouldn't, as you say. Let us not let one sort of error blind us to the existence of the other. When it comes to constructing or selecting rationality quotes, we should keep in mind that what we're often doing is attempting to point out and correct some bias, which means that the relevance of the quote is obviously constrained by whether we have that bias at all, or perhaps have the opposite bias instead.
2NancyLebovitz8yThere is such a thing as bad luck, though perhaps it's less in play in relationships than in most areas of life. I think that if you keep having relationships that keep failing in the same way, it's a stronger signal that if they just fail.

Stepan Arkadyevitch subscribed to a liberal paper, and read it. It was not extreme in those views, but advocated those principles the majority held. And though he was not really interested in science or art or politics, he strongly adhered to such views on all those subjects as the majority, including his paper, advocated, and he changed them only when the majority changed them; or more correctly, he did not change them, but they themselves imperceptibly changed in him.

Stepan Arkadyevitch never chose principles or opinions, but these principles and opinions came to him, just as he never chose the shape of a hat or coat, but took those that others wore. And, living as he did in fashionable society, through the necessity of some mental activity, developing generally in a man's best years, it was as indispensable for him to have views as to have a hat. If there was any reason why he preferred liberal views rather than the conservative direction which many of his circle followed, it was not because he found a liberal tendency more rational, but because he found it better suited to his mode of life.

The liberal party declared that everything in Russia was wretched; and the fact was that

... (read more)

Stepan is a smart chap. He has realized (perhaps unconsciously)

  • that one's political views are largely inconsequential,
  • that it's nonetheless socially necessary to have some,
  • that developing popular and coherent political views oneself is expensive,

and so has outsourced them to a liberal paper.

One might compare it to hiring a fashion consultant... except it's cheap to boot!

"Oh, you could do it all by magic, you certainly could. You could wave a wand and get twinkly stars and a fresh-baked loaf. You could make fish jump out of the sea already cooked. And then, somewhere, somehow, magic would present its bill, which was always more than you could afford.

That’s why it was left to wizards, who knew how to handle it safely. Not doing any magic at all was the chief task of wizards - not “not doing magic” because they couldn’t do magic, but not doing magic when they could do and didn’t. Any ignorant fool can fail to turn someone else into a frog. You have to be clever to refrain from doing it when you knew how easy it was.

There were places in the world commemorating those times when wizards hadn’t been quite as clever as that, and on many of them the grass would never grow again."

-- Terry Prachett, Going Postal

It is said, for example, that a man ten times regrets having spoken, for the once he regrets his silence. And why? Because the fact of having spoken is an external fact, which may involve one in annoyances, since it is an actuality. But the fact of having kept silent! Yet this is the most dangerous thing of all. For by keeping silent one is relegated solely to oneself, no actuality comes to a man's aid by punishing him, by bringing down upon him the consequences of his speech. No, in this respect, to be silent is the easy way. But he who knows what the dreadful is, must for this very reason be most fearful of every fault, of every sin, which takes an inward direction and leaves no outward trace. So it is too that in the eyes of the world it is dangerous to venture. And why? Because one may lose. But not to venture is shrewd. And yet, by not venturing, it is so dreadfully easy to lose that which it would be difficult to lose in even the most venturesome venture, and in any case never so easily, so completely as if it were nothing...one's self. For if I have ventured amiss--very well, then life helps me by its punishment. But if I have not ventured at all--who then helps me?

--Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

2tgb8yThat's an interesting opening comment on regretting choosing to speak more than choosing not to speak. In particular, it brings to mind studies of the elderly's regrets in life and how most of those are not-having-done's versus having-done's. These two aren't incompatible: if we remain silent 20 times for every time we speak, then we still regret remaining silent more than we regret speaking even if we regret each having-spoken 10 times as much as a not-having-spoken. Still, though, there seems to be some disagreement.
2tingram8yObviously the fact that it's translated complicates things, and I don't know anything about Danish. But I think the first sentence is meant to be a piece of folk wisdom akin to "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." That is, he's not really concerned with the relative proportions of regret, but with the idea that it's better (safer, shrewder) to keep your counsel than to stake out a position that might be contradicted. In light of the rest of the text, this is the reading of the line that makes the most sense to me: equivocation and bet-hedging in the name of worldly safety are a symptom of the sin of despair. Compare:

And the reason this hypothesis is so unlikely as to be not worth considering is:

During the Cold War, the US and British governments were shot through with hundreds of double agents for the Soviets, to an almost ludicrous extent (eg. Kim Philby apparently almost became head of MI6 before being unmasked); and of course, due to the end of the Cold War & access to Russian archives, we now have a much better idea of everything that was going on and can claim a reasonable degree of certainty as to who was a double agent and what their activities were.

With those observations in mind: can you name a single one of those double-agents who went public as a leaker as Snowden has done?

If you can name only one or two such people, and if there were, say, hundreds of regular whistleblowers over the Cold War (which seems like a reasonable figure given all the crap like MKULTRA), then the extreme unlikelihood of the Fox hypothesis seems clear...

...the machines will do what we ask them to do and not what we ought to ask them to do. In the discussion of the relation between man and powerful agencies controlled by man, the gnomic wisdom of the folk tales has a value far beyond the books of our sociologists.

you would be foolish to accept what people believed for “thousands of years” in many domains of natural science. When it comes to the ancients or the moderns in science always listen to the moderns. They are not always right, but overall they are surely more right, and less prone to miss the mark. In fact, you may have to be careful about paying too much attention to science which is a generation old, so fast does the “state of the art” in terms of knowledge shift.

Razib Khan

Similar thought:

16) The previous people who did a similar analysis did not have a direct pipeline to the wisdom of the ages. There is therefore no reason to believe their analysis over yours. There is especially no reason to present their analysis as yours.

-- Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design

"It’s actually hard to see when you’ve fucked up, because you chose all your actions in a good-faith effort and if you were to run through it again you’ll just get the same results. I mean, errors-of-fact you can see when you learn more facts, but errors-of-judgement are judged using the same brain that made the judgement in the first place." - Collin Street

"I call that 'the falling problem'. You encounter it when you first study physics. You realize that, if you were ever dropped from a plane without a parachute, you could calculate with a high degree of accuracy how long it's take to hit the ground, your speed, how much energy you'll deposit into the earth. And yet, you would still be just as dead as a particularly stupid gorilla dropped the same distance. Mastery of the nature of reality grants you no mastery over the behavior of reality. I could tell you your grandpa is very sick. I could tell you what each cell is doing wrong, why it's doing wrong, and roughly when it started doing wrong. But I can't tell them to stop."

"Why can't you make a machine to fix it?"

"Same reason you can't make a parachute when you fall from the plane."

"Because it's too hard?"

"Nothing is too hard. Many things are too fast."


"I think I could solve the falling problem with a jetpack. Can you try to get me the parts?"

"That's all I do, kiddo."


3shminux8yIDG the punchline...

I wouldn't call it a punchline, exactly... I mean, it's not a joke. But in the comic it's likely a parent and child talking, and the subtext I infer is that parenting is a process of giving one's children the tools with which to construct superior solutions to life problems.

4David_Gerard8yHow I would love to quote you next month. This is pretty much my approach in a sentence.
6tgb8yFor me, the real punchline is in the 'votey image' you get by hovering over the red dot at the bottom.

Th[e] strategy [of preferring less knowledge and intelligence due to their high cognitive costs] is exemplified by the sea squirt larva, which swims about until it finds a suitable rock, to which it then permanently affixes itself. Cemented in place, the larva has less need for complex information processing, whence it proceeds to digest part of its own brain (its cerebral ganglion). Academics can sometimes observe a similar phenomenon in colleagues who are granted tenure.

Nick Bostrom

It is perhaps worth noting that a similar comment was made by Dennett:

“The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain anymore, so it eats it! It's rather like getting tenure.”

...in 1991 or so.

7Eliezer Yudkowsky8yI remember this as a famous proverb, it may predate Dennett.

Apparently it does... a few minutes of googling turned up a cite to Rodolfo Llinas (1987), who referred to it as "a process paralleled by some human academics upon obtaining university tenure."

Has the life cycle of the sea squirt ever been notably used to describe something other than the reaction of an academic to tenure?

Hah! Um... hm. A quick perusal of Google results for "sea squirt -tenure" gets me some moderately interesting stuff about their role as high-sensitivity harbingers for certain pollutants, and something about invasive sea-squirt species in harbors. But nothing about their life-cycle per se. I give a tentative "no."

That's kind of amusing, considering that Lincoln is also famous for destroying his enemies the other way.

3Luke_A_Somers8yHe tried the nice way first...

He tried the nice way first...

This would seem to further weaken the quote in as much as it is evidence that the tactic doesn't work.

Not explicitly, precisely because it is the norm. But it records a great many times when minorities have been wrong.

As I stated earlier, I don't mind this.

As things one could not mind go, literally dying in a fire seems unlikely to be a good choice.

8khafra8ySo does leaving a box with $1,000 in it on the table.
2itaibn08yWhat's involved here is dying in a fire in a hypothetical situation.

No. Please, just no. This is the worst possible form of fighting the hypothetical. If you're going to just say "it's all hypothetical, who cares!" then please do everyone a favor and just don't even bother to respond. It's a waste of everyone's time, and incredibly rude to everyone else who was trying to have a serious discussion with you. If you make a claim, an your reasoning is shown to be inconsistent, the correct response is never to pretend it was all just a big joke the whole time. Either own up to having made a mistake (note: having made a mistake in the past is way higher status than making a mistake now. Saying "I was wrong" is just another way to say "but now I'm right". You will gain extra respect on this site from noticing your own mistakes as well.) or refute the arguments against your claim (or ask for clarification or things along those lines). If you can't handle doing either of those then tap out of the conversation. But seriously, taking up everyone's time with a counter-intuitive claim and then laughing it off when people try to engage you seriously is extremely rude and a waste of everyone's time, including yours.

You're completely right. I retract my remark.

6DSherron8yAnd then sometimes I'm reminded why I love this site. Only on LessWrong does a (well-founded) rant about bad form or habits actually end up accomplishing the original goal.

From the remarkable opening chapter of Consciousness Explained:

One should be leery of these possibilities in principle. It is also possible in principle to build a stainless-steel ladder to the moon, and to write out, in alphabetical order, all intelligible English conversations consisting of less than a thousand words. But neither of these are remotely possible in fact and sometimes an impossibility in fact is theoretically more interesting than a possibility in principle, as we shall see.

--Daniel Dennett

8Vaniver8yWhile I agree with the general point that it's important to consider impossibilities in fact, I'm not quite sure I agree where he's drawing the line between fact and principle. Does the compressive strength of stainless steel, and the implied limit on the height of a ladder constructed of it, not count as a restriction in principle?
3khafra8yIt just takes some imagination. Hollow out both the Earth and the Moon to reduce their gravitational pull; support the ladder with carbon nanotube filaments; stave off collapse by pushing it around with high-efficiency ion impulse engines; etc. I agree, though, that philosophers often make too much of the distinction between "logically impossible" and "physically impossible." There's probably no in principle possible way to hollow out the Earth significantly while retaining its structure; etc.
5DanArmak8ySo basically, build a second ladder out of some other material that's feasible (unlike steel), and then just tie the steel ladder to it so it doesn't have to bear any weight.
3tingram8yI think that often "logically possible" means "possible if you don't think too hard about it". Which is exactly Dennett's point in context: the idea that you are a brain in a vat is only conceivable if you don't think about the computing power that would be necessary for a convincing simulation.
8ChristianKl8yDreams can be quite convincing simulations that don't need that much computing power. The worlds that people who do astral traveling perceive can be quite complex. Complex enough to convince people who engage in that practice that they really are on an astral plane. Does that mean that the people are really on an astral plane and aren't just imagining it?
6Caspian8yThe way I like to think about it is that convincingness is a 2-place function - a simulation is convincing to a particular mind/brain. If there's a reasonably well-defined interface between the mind and the simulation (e.g. the 5 senses and maybe a couple more) then it's cheating to bypass that interface and make the brain more gullible than normal, for example by introducing chemicals into the vat for that purpose. From that perspective, dreams are not especially convincing compared to experience while awake, rather dreamers are especially convincable. Dennett's point seems to be that a lot of computing power would be needed to make a convincing simulation for a mind as clear-thinking as a reader who was awake. Later in the chapter he talks about other types of hallucinations.
3ChristianKl8yThe 5 senses are brain events. There aren't input channels to the brain. Take taste. How many different tastes of food can you perceive through your taste sense? More than 5. Why? Your brain takes data from nose, tongue and your memory and fits them together to something that you can perceive through your smell sense. You have no direct access to the data that your nose or tongue sends to your brain through your conscious qualia perception. If someone is open by receiving suggestions and you give him a hypnotic suggestion that a apple tastes like an orange you can awake him. If he eats the thing he will tell you that the apple is an orange. He might even get angry when someone tells him that the thing isn't an orange because it obviously tastes like an orange. You don't need to introduce any chemicals. Millions of years of evolutions have trained brains to have an extremly high prior for thinking that they aren't "brains in a vat". Doubting your own perception is an incredibly hard cognitive task. There are experients where an experimentor uses a single electron to trigger a subject to do a particular task like raising his arm. If the experimentor afterwards ask the subject why he raised the arm the subject makes up a story and believes in that story. It takes effort for the leader of an experiment to convince a subject that he made up the story and there was no reason he raised his arm.
2tingram8yI suggest you read the opening chapter of Consciousness Explained. Someone's posted it online here [http://konyv.uw.hu/consciousness_explained.htm].
3B_For_Bandana8yI'm someone who still finds subjective experience mysterious, and I'd like to fix that. Does that book provide a good, gut-level, question-dissolving explanation?

I've had that conversation with a few people over the years, and I conclude that it does for some people and not others. The ones for whom it doesn't generally seem to think of it as a piece of misdirection, in which Dennett answers in great detail a different question than the one that was being asked. (It's not entirely clear to me what question they think he answers instead.)

That said, it's a pretty fun read. If the subject interests you, I'd recommend sitting down and writing out as clearly as you can what it is you find mysterious about subjective experience, and then reading the book and seeing if it answers, or at least addresses, that question.

2DanArmak8yHe seems to answer the question of why humans feel and report that they are conscious; why, in fact, they are conscious. But I don't know how to translate that into an explanation of why I am conscious. The problem that many people (including myself) feel to be mysterious is qualia. I know indisputably that I have qualia, or subjective experience. But I have no idea why that is, or what that means, or even what it would really mean for things to be otherwise (other than a total lack of experience, as in death). A perfect and complete explanation of of the behavior of humans, still doesn't seem to bridge the gap from "objective" to "subjective" experience. I don't claim to understand the question. Understanding it would mean having some idea over what possible answers or explanations might be like, and how to judge if they are right or wrong. And I have no idea. But what Dennett writes doesn't seem to answer the question or dissolve it.
8bojangles8yHere's how I got rid of my gut feeling that qualia are both real and ineffable. First, phrasing the problem: Even David Chalmers [http://consc.net/papers/facing.html] thinks there are some things about qualia that are effable. Some of the structural properties of experience - for example, why colour qualia can be represented in a 3-dimensional space [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_solid] (colour, hue, and saturation) - might be explained by structural properties of light and the brain, and might be susceptible to third-party investigation [http://www.sfu.ca/~kathleea/colour/docs/Ways%20of%20Colouring.pdf]. What he would call ineffable is the intrinsic properties of experience. With regards to colour-space, think of spectrum inversion [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_spectrum]. When we look at a firetruck, the quale I see is the one you would call "green" if you could access it, but since I learned my colour words by looking at firetrucks, I still call it "red". If you think this is coherent, you believe in ineffable qualia: even though our colour-spaces are structurally identical, the "atoms" of experience additionally have intrinsic natures (I'll call these eg. RED and GREEN) which are non-causal and cannot be objectively discovered. You can show that ineffable qualia (experiential intrinsic natures, independent of experiential structure) aren't real by showing that spectrum inversion (changing the intrinsic natures, keeping the structure) is incoherent. An attempt at a solution: Take another experiential "spectrum": pleasure vs. displeasure. Spectrum inversion is harder, I'd say impossible, to take seriously in this case. If someone seeks out P, tells everyone P is wonderful, laughs and smiles when P happens, and even herself believes (by means of mental representations or whatever) that P is pleasant, then it makes no sense to me to imagine P really "ultimately" being UNPLEASANT for her. Anyway, if pleasure-displeasure can't be noncausally i
3DavidAgain8yI'm not sure pleasure/pain is that useful, because 1) they have such an intuitive link to reaction/function 2) they might be meta-qualities: a similar sensation of pain can be strongly unpleasant, entirely tolerable or even enjoyable depending on other factors. What you've done with colours is combine what feels like a somewhat arbitary/ineffable qualia and declare it inextricable associated with one that has direct behavioural terms involved. Your talk of what's required to 'make the inversion succesfully' is misleading: what if the monkey has GREEN and antsiness rather than RED and antsiness? It seems intuitive to assume 'red' and 'green' remain the same in normal conditions: but I'm left totally lost as to what 'red' would look like to a creature that could see a far wider or narrower spectrum than the one we can see. Or to that matter to someone with limited colour-blindness. There seems to me to be the Nagel 'what is it like to be a bat' problem, and I've never understood how that dissolves. It's been a long time since I read Dennett, but I was in the camp of 'not answering the question, while being fascinating around the edges and giving people who think qualia are straightforward pause for thought'. No-one's ever been able to clearly explain how his arguments work to me, to the point that I suggest that either I or they are fundamentally missing something. If the hard problem of consciousness has really been solved I'd really like to know!

Consider the following dialog:
A: "Why do containers contain their contents?"
B: "Well, because they are made out of impermeable materials arranged in such a fashion that there is no path between their contents and the rest of the universe."
A: "Yes, of course, I know that, but why does that lead to containment?"
B: "I don't quite understand. Are you asking what properties of materials make them impermeable, or what properties of shapes preclude paths between inside and outside? That can get a little technical, but basically it works like this --"
A: "No, no, I understand that stuff. I've been studying containment for years; I understand the simple problem of containment quite well. I'm asking about the hard problem of containment: how does containment arise from those merely mechanical things?"
B: "Huh? Those 'merely mechanical things' are just what containment is. If there's no path X can take from inside Y to outside Y, X is contained by Y. What is left to explain?"
A: "That's an admirable formulation of the hard problem of containment, but it doesn't solve it."

How would you reply to A?

2DanArmak8yI realize that non-materialistic "intrinsic qualities" of qualia, which we perceive but which aren't causes of our behavior, are incoherent. What I don't fully understand is why have I any qualia at all. Please see my sibling comment.
2TheOtherDave8y(nods) Yes, that's consistent with what I've heard others say. Like you, I don't understand the question and have no idea of what an answer to it might look like, which is why I say I'm not entirely clear what question you/they claim is being answered. Perhaps it would be more correct to say I'm not clear how it differs from the question you/they want answered. Mostly I suspect that the belief that there is a second question to be answered that hasn't been is a strong, pervasive, sincere, compelling confusion, akin to where does the bread go? [http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamanteum/3797363014/]. But I can't prove it. Relatedly: I remember, many years ago, attending a seminar where a philosophy student protested to Dennett that he didn't feel like the sort of process Dennett described. Dennett replied "How can you tell? Maybe this is exactly what the sort of process I'm describing feels like!" I recognize that the traditional reply to this is "No! The sort of process Dennett describes doesn't feel like anything at all! It has no qualia, it has no subjective experience!" To which my response is mostly "Why should I believe that?" An acceptable alternative seems to be that subjective experience ("qualia", if you like) is simply a property of certain kinds of computation, just as the ability to predict the future location of a falling object ("prescience", if you like) is a property of certain kinds of computation. To which one is of course free to reply "but how could prescience -- er, I mean qualia -- possibly be an aspect of computation??? It just doesn't make any sense!!!" And I shrug. Sure, if I say in English "prescience is an aspect of computation," that sounds like a really weird thing to say, because "prescience" and "computation" are highly charged words with opposite framings. But if I throw out the English words and think about computing the state of the world at some future time, it doesn't seem mysterious at all, and such computations have b
3tingram8yI think it does. It really is a virtuoso work of philosophy, and Dennett helpfully front-loaded it by putting his most astonishing argument in the first chapter. Anecdotally, I was always suspicious of arguments against qualia until I read what Dennett had to say on the subject. He brings in plenty of examples from philosophy, from psychological and scientific experiments, and even from literature to make things nice and concrete, and he really seems to understand the exact ways in which his position is counter-intuitive and makes sure to address the average person's intuitive objections in a fair and understanding way.
2nigerweiss8yI've read some of Dennet's essays on the subject (though not the book in question), and I found that, for me,his ideas did help to make consciousness a good deal less mysterious. What actually did it for me was doing some of my own reasoning about how a 'noisy quorum' model of conscious experience might be structured, and realizing that, when you get right down to it, the fact that I feel as though I have subjective experience isn't actually that surprising. It'd be hard to design to a human-style system that didn't have a similar internal behavior that it could talk about.

What I have been calling nefarious rhetoric recurs in a rudimentary form also in impromptu discussions. Someone harbors a prejudice or an article of faith or a vested interest, and marshals ever more desperate and threadbare arguments in defense of his position rather than be swayed by reason or face the facts. Even more often, perhaps, the deterrent is just stubbon pride: reluctance to acknowledge error. Unscientific man is beset by a deplorable desire to have been right. The scientist is distinguished by a desire to be right.

— W. V. Quine, An Intermittently Philosophical Dictionary (a whimsical and fun read)

3simplicio8yUsually I find myself deploying nefarious rhetoric when I believe something on good evidence but have temporarily forgotten the evidence (this is very embarrassing and happens to me a lot).

If America needs a double agent from a hostile foreign power to merely point out to the media that their government may be doing something that some might find questionable, then America's got far bigger problems than a few spies.

If America needs a double agent from a hostile foreign power to merely point out to the media that their government may be doing something that some might find questionable, then America's got far bigger problems than a few spies.

And if hostile government cares more about the democratic civil liberties of Americans than Americans do then there is an even bigger problem. (The actual benefit to China of the particular activity chosen for the 'double agent' is negligible.)

The recognition of confusion is itself a form of clarity.

T.K.V. Desikachar

Not having all the information you need is never a satisfactory excuse for not starting the analysis.

-Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design

My sense of the proper way to determine what is ethical is to make a distinction between a smuggler of influence and a detective of influence. The smuggler knows these six principles and then counterfeits them, brings them into situations where they don’t naturally reside.

The opposite is the sleuth’s approach, the detective’s approach to influence. The detective also knows what the principles are, and goes into every situation aware of them looking for the natural presence of one or another of these principles.

  • Robert Cialdini at the blog Bakadesuyo explaining the difference between ethical persuasion and the dark arts

I'm sure I could interpret a rationalist message from that quote, in the same way that I could derive a reasonable moral system based solely on the Book of Revelations. But that doesn't imply that my reading is intended by the author, or a plausible reading of the text.

3Eliezer Yudkowsky8yIn this case it does seem plausible that a rationalist message was intended.
2ChristianKl8yMaybe the real issue is that it takes background knoweldge to know what the quote means within Buddhism? Without that background knowledge the sentence doesn't convey much meaning.

Graffiti on the wall of an Austrian public housing block:

White walls — high rent.

(German original: "Weiße Wände — hohe Mieten". I'm not actually sure it's true, but my understanding is that rent in public housing does vary somewhat with quality and it seems plausible that graffiti could enter into it. And to make the implicit explicit, the reason it seems worth posting here is how it challenges the tenants' — and my — preconceptions: You may think that from a purely selfish POV you should not want graffiti on your house, but it's quite possible that the benefits to you are higher than the costs.)

3paulfchristiano8yThis makes sense as helping with a price discrimination scheme which is probably made very complicated legally (if the landlord is a monopolist, then both you and them might prefer that they have a crappy product to offer at low cost, but often it is hard to offer a crappier product for legal reasons) or as a costly signal of poverty (if you are poor you are willing to make your house dirtier in exchange for money---of course most of the costs can also be signaling, since having white walls is a costly signal of wealth). My guess would be these kinds of models are too expressive to have predictive power, but this at least seems like a clean case. Signaling explanations often seem to have this vaguely counter-intuitive form, e.g. you might think that from a selfish point of view you would want your classes to be more easily graded. But alas...
2[anonymous]8yEr... Why? The only reasons for that I can think of are aesthetics (but you can't ‘should’ that [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_gustibus_non_est_disputandum]), economic value (but that only applies to landlords, not tenants) and signalling (but people who know what building I live in already know me well, so I can afford countersignalling to them [http://lesswrong.com/lw/1sa/things_you_cant_countersignal/]),
8Estarlio8yBroken Windows? ( - If you live in an aesthetically unpleasing area, then people are more likely to trash the place.)

Does history record any case in which the majority was right?


[-][anonymous]8y 15

It’s hard to tell the difference between "Nobody ever complains about this car because it’s reliable" and “Nobody complains about this car because nobody buys this car."

-- Shamus Young

Thanks for the link.

Here's another good quote:

But if your solution to a problem is “don’t make mistakes”, then it’s not a solution. If you’re worried about falling off a cliff, the solution isn’t to walk along the edge very carefully, it’s to get away from the edge.

5[anonymous]8yIt depends on why you were walking there in the first place.

nod unfortunately, I am terrible at these sorts of plays. Thank you for your criticism, and I'll attempt to behave more gracefully in the future.

EDIT: I'm going to go ahead and trigger your downvotes, now, because reviewing the situation, I feel like I need to speak in my own defense.

I consistently lose fourty to fifty karma over the course of a few minutes, once every few days. Posts which have no possible reason why someone would downvote them get downvoted. And I do not, as you put it, "shame people who chose to downvote me". I mostly ask for an explanation why I got downvoted, so that I can improve. The ONLY time I have explicitly tried to shame someone who downvoted me was Eugine, and only after spending a very long time examining the situation and coming to the conclusion (p > 0.95) that Eugine was downvoting EVERYTHING I say, just because.

If you feel that that deserves further retributive downvoting, you are free to perform it to your heart's content; I am powerless to stop you.

1[anonymous]8yThat sounds overconfident.

If you're not making mistakes, you're not taking risks, and that means you're not going anywhere. The key is to make mistakes faster than the competition, so you have more chances to learn and win.

John W. Holt (previously quoted here, but not in a Rationality Quotes thread)

The hidden thought embedded in most discussions of conspiracy theories is this: The world is being controlled by evil people; so, if we can get rid of them, the world can revert to control by good people, and things will be great again. This thought is false. The world is not controlled by any group of people – evil or good – and it will not be. The world is a large, chaotic mess. Those groups which do exert some control are merely larger pieces in the global mix.

-- Paul Rosenberg

I don't know if there are short words for this, but seems to me that some people generally assume that "things, left alone, naturally improve" and some people assume that "things, left alone, naturally deteriorate".

The first option seems like optimism, and the second option seems like pesimism. But there is a catch! In real life, many things have good aspects and bad aspects. Now the person who is "optimistic about the future of things left alone" must find a reason why things are worse than expected. (And vice versa, the person who is "pessimistic about the future of things left alone" must find a reason why things are better.) In both cases, a typical explanation is human intervention. Which means that this kind of optimism is prone to conspiracy theories. (And this kind of pessimism is prone to overestimate the benefits of human actions.)

For example, in education: For a "pessimist about spontaneous future" things are easy -- people are born stupid, and schools do a decent job at making them smarter; of course, the process is not perfect. For an "optimist about spontaneous future", children should be left alone to become... (read more)

3ChristianKl8yI don't think that accurately describes a position of someone like Alex Jones. You can care about people and still push the fat man over the bridge but then try to keep the fact that you pushed the fat man over the bridge secret because you live in a country where the prevailing Christian values dictate that it's a sin to push the fat man over the bridge. There are a bunch of conspiracy theories where there is an actual conflict of values and present elites are just evil according to the moral standards that the person who started the conspiracy theory has. Take education. If you look at EU educational reform after the Bologna Process there are powerful political forces who want to optimize education to let universities teach skills that are valuable to employeers. On the other hand you do have people on the left who think that universities should teach critical thinking and create a society of individuals who follow the ideals of the Enlightment. There's a real conflict of values.
3Viliam_Bur8yIn this specific conflict, I would prefer having two kinds of school -- universities and polytechnics [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_applied_sciences_%28Finland%29] -- each optimized for one of the purposes, and let the students decide. Seems to me that conflicts of values are worse when a unified decision has to be made for everyone. (Imagine that people would start insisting that only one subject can be ever taught at schools, and then we would have a conflict of values whether the subject should be English or Math. But that would be just a consequence of a bad decision at meta level.) But yeah, I can imagine a situation with a conflict of values that cannot be solved by letting everyone pick their choice. And then the powerful people can push their choice, without being open about it.
2ChristianKl8yYou do have this in a case like teaching the theory of evolution. You have plenty of people who are quite passionate but making an unified decision to teach everyone the theory of evolution, including the parents of children who don't believe in the theory of evolution. Germany has compulsory schooling. Some fundamental chrisitan don't want their children in public schools. If you discuss the issue with people who have political power you find that those people don't want that those children get taught some strange fundamental worldview that includes things like young earth creationism. The want that the children learn the basic paradigm that people in German society follow. On the other hand I'm not sure whether you can get a motivation like that from reading the newspaper. Everyone who's involved in the newspaper believes that it's worth to teach children the theory of evolution so it's not worth writing a newspaper article about it. Is it a secret persecution of fundamentalist Christians? The fundamentalist Christian from whom the government takes away the children for "child abuse" because the children don't go to school feel perscecuted. On the other hand the politician in question don't really feel like the are persecuting fundamentalist Christians. The ironic thing about it is that compulsory schooling was introduced in Germany for the stated purpose of turning children into 'good Christians". In a case like evolution, do you sincerely believe that the intellectual elite should use their power to push a Texan public school to teach evolution even if the parents of the children and the local board of education don't want it?
2Viliam_Bur8yYeah, when people in power create tools to help them maintain the power, if those tools are universal enough, they will be reused by the people who get the power later. The trade-offs need to be discussed rationally. The answer would probably be "yes", but there are [http://lesswrong.com/lw/gz/policy_debates_should_not_appear_onesided/] some negative side effects. For example, you create a precedent for other elites to push their agenda. (Just like those Christians did with the compulsory education.) Maybe a third option could be found. (Something like: Don't say what schools have to teach, but make the exams independent on schools. Make the evolutionary knowledge necessary to pass a biology exam. Make it public when students or schools or cities are "failing in biology".)
2OrphanWilde8yPessimists can also believe that education started out decent and has deteriorated to the point where it's worse than nothing. In addition to Armok's alternatives, there's also those who believe the tendency is a reversion to the mean (the mean being the mean because it's a natural equilibrium, perhaps).
2Armok_GoB8yAnd what about those that tend to assume things stay the same/revert to only changing on geological timescales, or those that assume it keeps moving in a linear way?

Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world's largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.

Matt Taibbi opening paragraph in [Everything Is Rigged The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever] (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/everything-is-rigged-the-biggest-financial-scandal-yet-20130425#ixzz2W8WJ4Vix)

Your what?

No, I'm not letting it go this time. I've heard people talking about internal monologues before, but I've never been quite sure what those are - I'm pretty sure I don't have one. Could you try to define the term?

Gosh. New item added to my list of "Not everyone does that."

...I have difficulty imagining what it would be to be like someone who isn't the little voice in their own head, though. Seriously, who's posting that comment?

I may be in a somewhat unique position to address this question, as one of the many many many weird transient neurological things that happened to me after my stroke was a period I can best describe as my internal monologue going away.

So I know what it's like to be the voice in my head, and what it's like not to be.

And it's still godawful difficult to describe the difference in words.

One way I can try is this: have you ever experienced the difference between "I know what I'm going to say, and here I am saying it" and "words are coming out of my mouth, and I'm kind of surprised by what I'm hearing myself say"?

If so, I think I can say that losing my "little voice" is similar to that difference.
If not, I suspect the explanation will be just as inaccessible as the phenomenon it purported to explain, but I can try again.

8CCC8y...no, I haven't. I'm always in the state of "I know what I'm going to say, and here I am saying it" (sometimes modified very soon afterwards by "on second thoughts, that was a very poor way to phrase it and I've probably been misunderstood").

...what? Wow!

I'm dying to know whether we're stumbling on a difference in the way we think or the way we describe what we think, here. To me, the first state sounds like rehearsing what I'm going to say in my head before I say it, which I only do when I'm racking my brains on eg how to put something tactfully, where the latter sounds like what I do in conversation all the time, which is simply to let the words fall out of my mouth and find out what I've said.

6CCC8yMy internal monologue is a lot faster than the words can get out of my mouth (when I was younger, I tried to speak as fast as I think, with the result that no-one could understand me; of course, to speak that fast, I needed to drop significant parts of most of the words, which didn't help). I don't always plan out every sentence in advance; but thinking about it, I think I do plan out every phrase in advance, relying on the speed of my internal monologue to produce the next phrase before or at worst very shortly after I complete the current phrase. (It often helps to include a brief pause at the end of a phrase in any case). It's very much a just-in-time thing. If I'm making a special effort to be tactful, then I'll produce and consider a full sentence inside my head before saying it out loud. Incidentally, I'm also a member of Toastmasters, and one thing that Toastmasters has is impromptu speaking, when a person is asked to give a one-to-two minute speech and is told the topic just before stepping up to give the speech. The topic could be anything (I've had "common sense", "stick", and "nail", among others). Most people seem to be scared of this, apparently seeing it as an opportunity to stand up and be embarrassed; I find that I enjoy it. I often start an impromptu speech with very little idea of how it's going to end; I usually make some sort of pun about the topic (I changed 'common sense' into a very snooty, upper-crust type of person complaining about commoners with money - 'common cents'), and often talk more-or-less total nonsense. But, through the whole speech, I always know what I am saying. I am not surprised by my own words (no matter how surprised other people may be by the idea of 'common cents'). I don't think I know how to be surprised at what I am saying. (Of course, my words are not always well-considered, in hindsight; and sometimes I will be surprised at someone else's interpretation of my words, and be forced to explain that that's not what I
2somervta8yI'm the same - except occasionally, when I'm 'flowing' in conversation, I'll find that my inner monologue fails to produce what I think it can, and my mouth just halts without input from it
1CCC8yI find that happens to me sometimes when I talk in Afrikaans; my Afrikaans vocabulary is poor enough that I often get halfway through a sentance and find that I can't remember the word for what I want to say.
2[anonymous]8yIt occasionally happens to me in any language. I usually manage to rephrase the sentence on the flight or to replace the word with something generic like “thing” and let the listener figure it out from the context, without much trouble.
1CCC8ySomething that occurred to me on this topic; reading has a lot to do with the inner monologue. Writing is, in my view, a code of symbols on a piece of paper (or a screen) which tell the reader what their inner monologue should say. Reading, therefore, is the voluntary (and temporary) replacement of the reader's internal monologue with an internal monologue supplied and encoded by the author. At least, that's what happens when I read. Do other people have the same experience?
4NancyLebovitz8yInner monologue test: I. like. how. when. you. read. this. the. little. voice. in. your. head. takes. pauses.. Does anyone find that the periods don't make the sentence sound different?
2CCC8yLet's make it a poll: When you read NancyLebovitz's sentence (quoted above) do the periods make it sound different? [pollid:470] (If anyone picks any option except 'Yes' or 'No', could you please elaborate?)
2[anonymous]8yHypothesis: Since I am more used to read sentences without a full stop after each word than sentences like that, of course I will read the former more quickly -- because it takes less effort. Experiment to test this hypothesis: Ilikehowwhenyoureadthisthelittlevoiceinyourheadspeaksveryquickly. Result of the experiment: at least for me, my hypothesis is wrong. YMMV.
2NancyLebovitz8yAs far as I can tell, I started reading the test phrase more slowly than normal, then "shifted gears" and sped up, perhaps to faster than normal.
2CCC8yThe little voice in my head speaks quickly for that experimental phrase, yes. It should be taking slightly longer to decode - since the information on word borders is missing - which suggests that the voice in my head is doing special effects. I think that that is becausewordslikethis can be used in fiction as the voice of someone who is speaking quickly; so if the voice in my head speeds up when reading it, then that makes the story more immersive.
2ialdabaoth8yI can parse it both ways. Actually, on further experimentation, it appears to be tied directly to my eye-scanning speed! If I force my eyes to scan over the line quickly from left-to-right, I read it without pause; if I read the way I normally do (by staring at the 'When' to take a "snapshot" of I, like, how, when, you, and read all at once; then staring at the space between "little" and "voice" to take a snapshot of this, the, little, voice, in, and your all at once, then staring at the "pauses" to take a snapshot of head, takes, and pauses), then the pauses get inserted - but not as normal sentence stops; more like... a clipped robot.
1[anonymous]8yAssuming you're literally talking about subvocalization [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subvocalization], it depends on what I'm reading (I do it more with poetry than with academic papers), on how quickly I'm reading (I don't do that as much when skimming), on whether I know what the author's voice sounds like (in which case I subvocalize in their voice -- which slows me down a great deal if I'm reading stuff by someone who speaks slowly and with a strong foreign accent e.g. Benedict XVI), and possibly on something else I'm overlooking at the moment.
2CCC8yI do not notice that I am subvocalising when I read, even when I am looking for it (I tested this on the wiki page that you linked to). I do notice, however, that it mentions that subvocalising is often not detectable by the person doing the subvocalising. More specifically, if I place my hand lightly on my throat while reading, I feel no movement of the muscles; and I am able to continue reading while swallowing. So, no, I don't think I'm talking about subvocalising. I'm talking about an imaginary voice in my head that narrates my thought processes. Hmmm... my inner monologue does not tend to speak in the voice of someone whose voice I know. I can get it to speak in other peoples' voices, or in what I imagine other people's voices to sound like, if I try to, but it defaults to a sort of neutral gear which, now that I think about it, sounds like a voice but not quite like my (external) voice. Similar, but not the same. (And, of course, the way that I hear my voice when I speak differs from how I hear it when recorded on tape - my inner monologue sounds more like the way I hear my voice, but still somewhat different) ...this is strange. I don't know who my inner monologue sounds like, if anyone.
5Kaj_Sotala8yMy experience is that I generally have some kind of fuzzy idea of what I'm going to say before I say it. When I actually speak, sometimes it comes out as a coherent and streamlined sentence whose contents I figure out as a I speak it. At other times - particularly if I'm feeling nervous, or trying to communicate a complicated concept that I haven't expressed in speech before - my fuzzy idea seems to disintegrate at the moment I start talking, and even if I had carefully rehearsed a line many times in my mind, I forget most of it. Out comes either what feels to me like an incoherent jumble, or a lot of "umm, no, wait". Writing feels a lot easier, possibly because I have the stuff-that-I've-already-written right in front of me and I only need to keep the stuff that I'm about to say in memory, instead of also needing to constantly remind myself about what I've said so far. ETA: Here's [https://www.facebook.com/Xuenay/posts/10151718340808662] an earlier explanation of how writing sometimes feels like to me.
5ialdabaoth8yThe parts of your brain that generate speech and the part that generate your internal sense-of-self are less integrated than CCC's. An interesting experiment might be to stop ascribing ownership to your words when you find yourself surprised by them - i.e., instead of framing the phenomenon as "I said that", frame it as "my brain generated those words". Learn to recognize that the parts of your brain that handle text generation and output are no more "you" than the parts of your brain that handle motor reflex control. EDIT: Is there a problem with this post?

Learn to recognize that the parts of your brain that handle text generation and output are no more "you" than the parts of your brain that handle motor reflex control.

No! The parts of my brain that handle text generation are the only parts that... *slap*... Ow. Nevermind. It seems we have reached an 'understanding'.

I mean, I do realize you're being funny, but pretty much exactly this.

I don't recommend aphasia as a way of shock-treating this presumption, but I will admit it's effective. At some point I had the epiphany that my language-generating systems were offline but I was still there; I was still thinking the way I always did, I just wasn't using language to do it.

Which sounds almost reasonable expressed that way, but it was just about as creepy as the experience of moving my arm around normally while the flesh and bone of my arm lay immobile on the bed.

6Kawoomba8yA smash equilibrium.
9TheOtherDave8y(nods) Yeah, OK. Take 2. It's also broadly similar to the difference between explicit and implicit knowledge. Have you ever practiced a skill enough that it goes from being something where you hold the "outline" of the skill in explicit memory as you perform it, to being something where you simply perform it without that "outline"? For example, driving to an unfamiliar location and thinking "ok, turn right here, turn left here" vs. just turning in the correct direction at each intersection, or something similar to that?
3Armok_GoB8yI wasn't to add another data point, but I'm not sure the one I got can even be called that: I have no consistent memory on this subject. I am notoriously horrible at luminosity and introspection. When I do try to ask my brain, I receive a model/metaphor based of what I already know for neuroscience which may or may not contain data I couldn't access otherwise, and which is presented as a machine I can manipulate in the hopes of trying to manipulate the states of distant brains. The machine is clearly based on whatever concepts happen to be primed and the results would probably be completely different in every way if I tried this an hour later. Note that the usage of the word "I" here is inconsistent and ill-defined. This might be related to the fact this brain is self-diagnosed with posible ego-death (in the good way). Edit: it is also noticed that like seemingly the case with most attempts to introspection, the act of observation strongly and aversely influence the functioning of the relevant circuity, in this case heavily altering my speech-patterns.
2hylleddin8yHuh. They way you describe attempting introspection is exactly the way our brain behaves when we try to access any personal memories outside of working memory. This doesn't seem to be as effective as whatever the typical way is, as our personal memory's notoriously atrocious compared with others. I don't seem to have any sort of ego death. Vigil might have something similar, though.
1Armok_GoB8yHmm, this seems related to another datapoint: reportedly, when I'm asked about my current mood and distracts, I answer "I can't remember". A more tenuously related datapoint is that in fiction, I try to design BMIs around emulating having memorized GLUTs. And some other thing come to think of it: I do have abnormal memory function in a bunch of various ways. Basically; maybe a much larger chunk of my cognition passes through memory machinery for some reason?
2hylleddin8yWhat are GLUTs? I'm guessing you're not talking about Glucose Transporters. This seems like a plausible hypothesis. Alternatively, perhaps your working memory is less differentiated from your long-term memory. Hm. I have the same reaction if I'm asked what I'm thinking about, but I don't think it's because my thoughts are running through my long-term memory, so much as my train of thought usually gets flushed out of working memory when other people are talking.
3Armok_GoB8yGLUT=Giant Look-Up Table. Basically, implementing multiplication by memorizing the multiplication tables up to 2 147 483 647. Hmm, that's an interesting theory. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive. And no I'm not talking about trying to remember what happened a few seconds ago. I mean direct sensory experiences; as in someone holds p 3 fingers in the darkness and asks "how many fingers am I holding up right now" and I answer "I can't remember" instead of "I can't see".
1TheOtherDave8yGiant Look-Up Table [http://lesswrong.com/lw/pa/gazp_vs_glut/]
1[anonymous]8yWhat are BMIs? I'm guessing you're not talking about body mass indexes. :-)
2[anonymous]8yBTW, my internal monologue usually sounds quite different from what I actually say in most casual situations: for example, it uses less dialectal/non-standard language and more technical terms. (IOW, it resembles the way I write more than the way I speak. So, "I know what I'm going to say, and here I am saying it" is my default state when writing, and "words are coming out of my mouth, and I'm kind of surprised by what I'm hearing myself say" is the state I'm most often in when speaking.) Anyone else finds the same?
2OrphanWilde8yThat's pretty close to how I operate, except the words are more like the skeletons of the thoughts than the thoughts themselves, stripped of all the internal connotation and imagery that provided 99% of the internal meaning.

When you're playing a sport... wait, maybe you don't... okay, when you're playing an instrum—hm. Surely there is a kinesthetic skill you occasionally perform, during which your locus of identity is not in your articulatory loop? (If not, fixing that might be high value?) And you can imagine being in states similar to that much of the time? I would imagine intense computer programming sessions would be more kinesthetic than verbal. Comment linked to hints at what my default thinking process is like.

2khafra8yWhen I'm playing music or martial arts, and I'm doing it well, I'm usually in a state of flow--not exactly self-aware in the way I usually think of it. When I'm working inside a computer or motorcycle, I think I'm less self-aware, and what I'm aware of is my manipulating actuators, and the objects than I need to manipulate, and what I need to do to them. When I'm sitting in my armchair, thinking "who am I?" this is almost entirely symbolic, and I feel more self-aware than at the other times. So, I think having my locus of identity in my articulatory loop is correlated with having a strong sense of identity. I'm not sure whether my sense of identity would be weaker there, and stronger in a state of kinesthetic flow, if I spent more time sparring than sitting.
5Nisan8yI wouldn't want to identify with the voice in my head. It can only think one thought at a time; it's slow.
1CCC8yHow many things can you think of at once? I'm curious now.
1Nisan8yI'm not sure how to answer that question. But when I think verbally I often lose track of the bigger picture of what I'm doing and get bogged down on details or tangents.
4Desrtopa8yI play other people's voices through my head as I imagine what they would say (or are saying, when I interpret text,) but I don't have my own voice in my head as an internal monologue, and I think of "myself" as the conductor, which directs all the voices.
3ialdabaoth8yIt's something like watching a movie. You can see hands typing and words appearing on the screen, but you aren't precisely thinking them. You can feel lips moving and hear words forming in the air, but you aren't precisely thinking them. They're just things your body is doing, like walking. When you walk, you don't consciously think of each muscle to move, do you? most of the time you don't even think about putting one foot in front of the other; you just think about where you're going (if that) and your motor control does the rest. For some people, verbal articulation works the same way. Words get formed, maybe even in response to other peoples' words, but it's not something you're consciously acting on; those processes are running on their own without conscious input.
2Ratcourse8ySingle data point but: I can alternate between inner monologue (heard [in somebody else's voice not mine(!)]) and no monologue (mainly social activity - say stuff then catch myself saying it and keep going) - stuff just happens. When inner monologue is present it seems I'm in real time constructing what I imagine the future to be and then adapt to that. I can feel as if my body moved without moving it, but don't use it for thinking (mainly kinesthethic imagination or whatever). I can force myself to see images, and, at the fringe, close to sleep, can make up symphonies in my mind, but don't use them to think.
1Estarlio8yWho's speaking the voice in your head? Seems like another layer of abstraction.
2gwern8yObviously the speaker is the homunculus that makes Eliezer conscious rather than a p-zombie.
6CCC8yI have an internal monologue. It's a bit like a narrator in my head, narrating my thoughts. I think - and this is highly speculative on my part - that it's a sign of thinking mainly with the part of the brain that handles language. Whenever I take one of those questionnaires designed to tell whether I use mainly the left or right side of my brain, I land very heavily on the left side - analytical, linguistic, mathematical. I can use the other side if I want to; but I find it surprisingly easy to become almost a caricature of a left-brain thinker. My internal monologue quite probably restricts me to (mainly) ideas that are easily expressed in English. Up until now, I could see this as a weakness, but I couldn't see any easy way around it. (One advantage of the internal monologue, on the other hand, is that I usually find it easy to speak my thoughts out loud; because they're already in word form) But now, you tell me that you don't seem to have an internal monologue. Does this mean that you can easily think of things that are not easily expressed in English?
5Eugine_Nier8yObligatory link to Yvain's article [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing_from_one_example/] on the topic.
5NancyLebovitz8yA very high proportion of what I call thinking is me talking to myself. I have some ability to imagine sounds and images, but it's pretty limited. I'm better with kinesthesia, but that's mostly for thinking about movement. What's your internal experience composed of?
8Baughn8yThat varies.. quite a lot. While I'm writing fiction there'll be dialogue, the characters' emotions and feelings, visuals of the scenery, point-of-view visuals (often multiple angles at the same time), motor actions, etc. It's a lot like lucid dreaming, only without the dreaming. Occasionally monologues, yes, but those don't really count; they're not mine. While I'm writing this there is, yes, a monologue. One that's just-in-time, however; I don't normally bother to listen to a speech in my head before writing it down. Not for this kind of thing; more often for said fiction, where I'll do that to better understand how it reads. Mostly I'm not writing anything, though. Most of the time, I don't seem to have any particular internal experience at all. I just do whatever it is I'm doing, and experience that, but unless it's relatively complex there doesn't seem to be much call for pre-action reflections. (Well, of course I still feel emotions and such, but.. nothing monologue-like, in any modality. Hope that makes sense.) A lot of the time I have (am conscious of) thoughts that don't correspond to any sensor modality whatsoever. I have no idea how I'd explain those. If I'm working on a computer program.. anything goes, but I'll typically borrow visual capacity to model graph structures and such. A lot of the modalities I'd use there, I don't really have words for, and it doesn't seem worthwhile to try inventing them; doing so usefully would turn this into a novel.
3CCC8yThat's the internal monologue. Mine is also often just-in-time (not always, of course). I can listen to it in my head a whole lot faster than I can talk, type, or write, so sometimes I'll start out just-in-time at the start of the sentence and then my internal monologue has to regularly wait for the typing/writing/speaking to catch up before I can continue. For example, in this post, when I clicked the 'reply' button I had already planned out the first two sentences of the above post (before the first bracket). The contents of the first bracket were added when I got to the end of the second sentence, and then edited to add the 'of course'. The next sentence was added in sections, built up and then put down and occasionally re-edited as I went along (things like replacing 'on occasion' with 'sometimes'). Hmmm. Living in the moment. I'm curious; how would you go about (say) planning for a camping trip? Not so much 'what would you do', but 'how would you think about it'?
4OrphanWilde8yCan't speak for Nancy, but I think I know what she refers to. Different people have different thought... processes, I guess is the word. My brother's thought process is, by his description, functional; he assigns parts of his mind tasks, and gets the results back in a stack. (He's pretty good at multi-tasking, as a result.) My own thought process is, as Nancy specifies, an internal monologue; I'm literally talking to myself. (Although the conversation is only partially English. It's kind of like... 4Chan. Each "line" of dialogue is associated with an "image" (in some cases each word, depending on the complexity of the concept encoded in it), which is an abstract conceptualization. If you've ever read a flow-of-consciousness book, that's kind of like a low-resolution version of what's going on in my brain, and, I presume, hers. I've actually discovered at least one other "mode" I can switch my brain into - I call it Visual Mode. Whereas normally my attention is very tunnel vision-ish (I can track only one object reliably), I can expand my consciousness (at the cost of eliminating the flow-of-consciousness that is usually my mind) and be capable of tracking multiple objects in my field of vision. (I cannot, for some reason, actually move my eyes while in this state; it breaks my concentration and returns me to a "normal" mode of thought.) I'm capable of thinking in this state, but oddly, incapable of tracking or remembering what those thoughts are; I can sustain a full conversation which I will not remember, at all, later.
3itaibn08yAdd one to the sample size. My thought process is also mostly lacking in sensory modality. My thoughts do have a large verbal component, but they are almost exclusively for planning things that I could potentially say or write. Rather than trying to justify how this works to the others, I will instead ask my own questions: How can words help in creating thoughts? In order to generate a sentence in your head, surely you must already know what you want to say. And if you already know what you have to say, what's the point of saying it? I presume you cannot jump to the next thought without saying the previous one in full. With my own ability to generate sentences, that would be a crippling handicap.
5CCC8yMy thoughts are largely made up of words. Although some internal experimentation has shown that my brain can still work when the internal monologue is silent, I still associate 'thoughts' very, very strongly with 'internal monologue'. I think that, while thoughts can exist without words, the word make the thoughts easier to remember; thus, the internal monologue is used as part of a 'write-to-long-term-storage' function. (I can write images and feelings as well; but words seem to be my default write-mode). Also, the words - how shall I put this - the words solidify the thought. They turn the thought into something that I can then take and inspect for internal integrity. Something that I can check for errors; something that I can think about, instead of something that I can just think. Images can do the same, but take more working-memory space to hold and are thus harder to inspect as a whole. I don't think I've ever tried. I can generate sentences fast enough that it's not a significant delay, though. I suspect that this is simply due to long practice in sentence construction. (Also, if I'm not going to actually say it out loud, I don't generally bother to correct it if it's not grammatically correct).

Didn't think this was going to be my first contribution to LessWrong, but here goes (hi, everybody, I'm Phil!)

I came to what I like to think was a realisation useful to my psychological health a few months ago when I was invited to realise that there is more to me than my inner monologue. That is, I came to understand that identifying myself as only the little voice in my head was not good for me in any sense. For one thing, my body is not part of my inner monologue, ergo I was a fat guy, because I didn't identify with it and therefore didn't care what I fed it on. For another, one of the things I explicitly excluded from my identity was the subprocess that talks to people. I had (and still have) an internal monologue, but it was at best only advisory to the talking process, so you can count me as one of the people for whom conversation is not something I'm consciously acting on. Result: I didn't consider the person people meet and talk to to be "me", but (as I came to understand), nevertheless I am held responsible for everything he says and does.

My approach to this was somewhat luminous avant (ma lecture de) la lettre: I now construe my identity as consisting of at... (read more)

My dad used to run a business and whenever they needed a temp, he'd always line up 5-10 interviewees, to check out how they looked.

And then hire the ugliest.

Aside from keeping my mother off his back, he reasoned that if the temp had kept good employment, and it wasn't for her looks, she must be ok.

From the comments on the article on the jobs for good-looking.

This is a nice calculation with a fairly simple causal diagram. The basic point is that if you think people are repeatedly hired either for their looks or for being a good worker, then among the pool of people who are repeatedly hired, looks and good work are negatively correlated.

[-][anonymous]8y 11

That's called Berkson's paradox.

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.” --Lord Byron.

All too often those who are least rational in their best moments are the greatest supporters of using one's head, if only to avoid too early a demise. I wonder how many years Lord Byron gained from rational thought, and which of the risks he took did he take because he was good at betting...

the designers of a theoretical technology in any but the most predictable of areas should identify its assumptions and claims that have not already been tested in a laboratory. They should design not only the technology but also a map of the uncertainties and edge cases in the design and a series of such experiments and tests that would progressively reduce these uncertainties. A proposal that lacks this admission of uncertainties coupled with designs of experiments that will reduce such uncertainties should not be deemed credible for the purposes of any important decision. We might call this requirement a requirement for a falsifiable design.

--Nick Szabo, Falsifiable design: A methodology for evaluting theoretical technologies

Students are often quite capable of applying economic analysis to emotionally neutral products such as apples or video games, but then fail to apply the same reasoning to emotionally charged goods to which similar analyses would seem to apply. I make a special effort to introduce concepts with the neutral examples, but then to challenge students to ask wonder why emotionally charged goods should be treated differently.

-- R. Hanson

I'm under the impression that all EY / RH quotes are discouraged, as described in this comment tree, which suggests the following rule should be explicitly amended to be broader:

Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, Overcoming Bias, or HPMoR.

I will destroy my enemies by converting them to friends!

  • Maimonides
4Luke_A_Somers8ySource? It's pithy, yet not on the usual quote compilations that I checked.

Sounds like Takamachi Nanoha to me.

6Eliezer Yudkowsky8yThat's more along the lines of, "I will convert my enemies to friends by STARLIGHT BREAKER TO THE FACE". Offhand I can't think of a single well-recorded real-life historical instance where this has ever worked.

Substitute "friends" with "trading partners" and the outlook improves though.

8Eliezer Yudkowsky8yFair, the British were totally befriending their way through history for a while.
7CronoDAS8y"Befriending" by force? Well, post-WWII Japan worked out pretty well for the United States. As for dealing with would-be enemies by actually befriending them, Alexander Nevsky [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Nevsky] sucked up to the Mongols and ended up getting a much better deal for Russia than many of the other places the Mongols invaded.
3Emile8yAfter a bit of googling, I don't think it's a quote by Maimonides. The closest I could find is this passage of the Babilonian Talmud [http://www.come-and-hear.com/babamezia/babamezia_32.html]:
2jazmt8ydoes anyone know the original source in Maimonides writings?
2JoshuaZ8yI'm not sure where this, and the idea is good, but it doesn't sound like Maimonides. He was extremely willing to declare that those who disagreed with him were drunks, whoremongers and idolators. Rambam would rarely have talked about how his own personal goals anyways. It really isn't his style. I'm skeptical that this is a genuine quote due to him.

women rarely regret having a child, even one they thought they didn’t want. But as Katie Watson, a bioethicist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, points out, we tell ourselves certain stories for a reason. “It’s psychologically in our interest to tell a positive story and move forward,” she says. “It’s wonderfully functional for women who have children to be glad they have them and for women who did not have children to enjoy the opportunities that afforded them.”

--Joshua Lang, New York Times, June 12, 2013, What Happens to Women Who Are Denied Abortions?

4Qiaochu_Yuan8yI was also under the impression that the process of giving birth to a child triggers hormonal changes of some kind (involving oxytocin?) in the mother that help induce maternal bonding.

“Reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them.” --Jules Verne.

The fellow had a brilliant grasp of how to make scientific discovery interesting, and I think people could learn a thing or two from reading his stuff, still.

The paucity of skepticism in the world of health science is staggering. Those who aren't insufferable skeptical douchebags are doing it wrong.

-Stabby the Raccoon

He [the Inner Game player] reasons that since by definition the commonplace is what is experienced most often, the talent to be able to appreciate it is extremely valuable.

--W. Timothy Gallwey, Inner Tennis: Playing the Game

Lin Chi is a jerk.

The Buddha

5TimS8yGod :)

I've heard this quoted a lot, but I can't find the original source.

2TimS8yI'm surprised to find anything on the source of a joke, but this thread [http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=499703] suggests it originated some time in the 1960s.
7wedrifid8yMy impression was that Desrtopa was making an atheist jest.
2jklsemicolon8y(In the Recent Comments sidebar, this looked like: which is rather different!)

A spherically symmetric shell has no effect on the gravitational field inside. It will not pull the surface of a hollow Earth outwards.

3Kawoomba8yYou're correct [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_theorem]. There's other ways to guard against collapse of an empty shell, it's a similar scenario to guarding against collapse of a Dyson sphere.

When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.

Tuco, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply
4Jayson_Virissimo8yA great line, but it's a dupe [http://lesswrong.com/lw/8n9/rationality_quotes_december_2011/5d5d].
2katydee8yAh! Humblest apologies, retracted.

I just watched Oz the Great and Powerful, the big-budget fanfic prequel film to The Wizard of Oz. Hardly a rationalist movie, but there was some nice boosting of science and technology where I didn't expect it. So here's the quotation:

I’m not that kind of wizard. Where I come from there aren’t any real wizards, except one, Thomas Edison. He could look into the future and make it real. […] That's the kind of wizard I want to be.

(There's more, but this is all that I could get out of the Internet and my memory.)

Rosenberg writes:

So, when they say, “No one saw this crisis coming,” they may be telling the truth, at least as far as they know it. Neither they nor anyone in their circles would entertain such thoughts. Likewise, they may not see the next crisis until it hits them.

Plenty of big banks did make money by betting on the crisis. There were a lot of cases where banks sold their clients products the banks knew that the products would go south.

Realising that there are important political things that don't happen in the open is a meaningful conclusion. Matt isn't in a position where he can make claims for which he doesn't have to provide evidence.

In 2011 Julian Assange told the press that the US government has an API with the can use to query the data that they like from facebook. On the skeptics stackexchange website there a question whether their's evidence for Assange claim or whether he makes it up. It doesn't mention the possibility that Assange just refers to nonpublic information. The orthodox skeptic just rejects claims without public proof.

Two years later we know have decent evidence that the US has that capability via PRISM. In 2011 Julian had the knowledge that it happ... (read more)

On this site, it's probably worth clarifying that "evidence" here refers to legally admissible evidence, lest we go down an unnecessary rabbit hole.

Another potential detour on the road to truth is the nature of statistical variation and people’s tendency to misjudge through overgeneralization. Often in the fitness world, someone who appears to have above-average physical characteristics or capabilities is assumed to be a legitimate authority. The problem with granting authority to appearance is that a large part of an individual’s expression of such above-average physical characteristics and capabilities could simply be the result of wild variations across the statistical landscape. For instance, if you look out over a canopy of trees, you will probably notice a lone tree or two rising up above the rest – and it’s completely within human nature to notice things that stand out in such a way. In much the same manner, we take notice of individuals who possess superior physical capabilities, and when we do, there is a strong tendency to identify these people as sources of authority.

To make matters worse, many people who happen to posses such abnormal physical capabilities frequently misidentifies themselves as sources of authority, taking credit for something that nature has, in essence, randomly dropped in their laps. In other words, people are intellectually prepared to overlook the role of statistical variation in attributing authority.

-- Doug McDuff, M.D., and John Little, Body by Science, pp. x-xi

Hindsight is blindsight. The very act of looking back on events once you know their outcome, or even try to imagine their outcome, makes it, by definition, impossible to view such events objectively.

— Mark Salter & Trevor H. Turner, Community Mental Health Care: A practical guide to outdoor psychiatry

Though you can still find subjects who don't know the outcome, ask them for their predictions, and compare those predictions with subjects who are told the outcome to find the size of the hindsight bias.

I believe the implication is "I am doing you a favor by spraying graffiti on your apartment building, because that will cause your rent to decrease."

I don't know if this is actually true, but that's what I take to be the intent.

Linguistic traditions force us to think of body and mind as separate and distinct entities. Everyday notions like free will and moral responsibility contain underlying contradictions. Language also uses definitions and forms of the verb to be in ways that force us to think of classes of things as clearly defined (Is a fetus a human being or not?), when in fact every classification scheme has fuzzy boundaries and continuous gradations.

--Thomas M Georges, Digital Soul, 2004, p. 14

From your link: Sense of "gracious, kind" (now obsolete) first recorded late 13c.; that of "mild, tender" is 1550s.

This is, of course, exactly what the halo effect would predict; a word that means "good" in some context should come to mean "good" in other contexts. The same effect explains the euphemism treadmill, as a word that refers to a disfavored group is treated as an insult.

With machine intelligence and other technologies such as advanced nanotechnology, space colonization should become economical. Such technology would enable us to construct “von Neumann probes” – machines with the capability of traveling to a planet, building a manufacturing base there, and launching multiple new probes to colonize other stars and planets. A space colonization race could ensue. Over time, the resources of the entire accessible universe might be turned into some kind of infrastructure, perhaps an optimal computing substrate (“computronium”)

... (read more)
2Kyre8yIf you haven't seen it I can recommend Stuart Armstrong's talk at Oxford on the Fermi paradox and Von Neumann probes [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQTfuI-9jIo&feature=player_embedded]. Before I saw this I was thinking in a fuzzy way about "colonization waves" of probes going from star to star ...

If you turn on your television and tune it between stations, about 10 percent of that black-and-white speckled static you see is caused by photons left over from the birth of the universe. What grater proof of the reality of the Big Bang–you can watch it on TV.

Jim Holt

Would the static look any different if it was 0% though?

Yes, it wouldn't be peaked at about 3 GHz. Since television only goes up to about 1 GHz, this means more noise at higher channels after accounting for other sources.

3RolfAndreassen8yCan you actually do this experiment on a modern TV? I know how to change the channels on mine, but I have no idea how you would "tune" it.
3kpreid8y1. Selecting a channel is tuning; each channel has a specific frequency and the TV knows what frequencies the channel numbers stand for. But what you can't do is tune to a frequency that isn't assigned to any channel, so you would have to select a channel on which no station in your area is broadcasting. 2. You would have to be using an analog TV tuner (which is now obsolete, if you're in the US); digital TV has a much less direct relationship between received radio photons and displayed light photons. On the upside, it's really easy to find a channel where no station is broadcasting, now :) (though actually, I don't know what the new allocation of the former analog TV bands is and whether there would be anything broadcasting on them). (I've recently gotten an interest in radio technology; feel free to ask more questions even if you're just curious.)

A little less conversation, a little more action!

Elvis Presley

[-][anonymous]8y 8

Fundamental ideas play the most essential role in forming a physical theory. Books on physics are full of complicated mathematical formulae. But thought and ideas, not formulae, are the beginning of every physical theory. The ideas must later take the mathematical form of a quantitative theory, to make possible the comparison with experiment.

-- Albert Einstein

2satt8y— Amartya Sen, On Economic Inequality, p. vii

I think your tulpa is playing tricks on you. A shell around the Earth will have no effect on the interactions of bodies within it, or their interactions with everything outside the shell.

From David Shields' Reality Hunger:

Once, after running deep into foul territory to make an extraordinary catch to preserve a victory, he was asked, “When did you know you were going to catch the ball?” Ichiro replied, “When I caught it."

The first duty of life is to assume a pose. What the second duty is, no one has yet discovered.

--Oscar Wilde on signalling.

-Thank you, thank you Lord, for preserving my virginity!

  • You bloody idiot! Do you think God, to keep you a virgin, will drown the whole city of Florence?

(Architect Melandri to Noemi, the girl he is in love with, who thinks the flood of 1966 was sent as an answer to her prayers)

All my Friend, Act II [roughly translated by me]

This is yet another reason why a God that answers prayers is far, far crueler than an indifferent Azathoth. Imagine the weight of guilt that must settle on a person if they prayed for the wrong thing and God answered!

On another note, that girl must not be very picky, if God has to destroy a whole city to keep her a virgin...(please don't blast me for this!)

[T]here can be no way of justifying the substantive assumption that all forms of altruism, solidarity and sacrifice really are ultra-subtle forms of self-interest, except by the trivializing gambit of arguing that people have concern for others because they want to avoid being distressed by their distress. And even this gambit […] is open to the objection that rational distress-minimizers could often use more efficient means than helping others.

Jon Elster

Even if altruism turns out to be a really subtle form of self-interest, what does it matter? An unwoven rainbow still has all its colors.

Rational distress-minimizers would behave differently from rational atruists. (Real people are somewhere in the middle and seem to tend toward greater altruism and less distress-minimization when taught 'rationality' by altruists.)

9syllogism8yThat could be because rationality decreases the effectiveness of distress minimisation techniques other than altruism.
3Baughn8y..because it makes you try to see reality as it is? In me, it's also had the effect of reducing empathy. (Helps me not go crazy.)
3syllogism8yWell, for me, believing myself to be a type of person I don't like causes me great cognitive dissonance. The more I know about how I might be fooling myself, the more I have to actually adjust to achieve that belief. For instance, it used to be enough for me that I treat my in-group well. But once I understood that that was what I was doing, I wasn't satisfied with it. I now follow a utilitarian ethics that's much more materially expensive.
6RichardKennaway8yAre they being taught 'rationality' by altruists or 'altruism' by rationalists? Or 'rational altruism' by rational altruists?
6Pablo8yIt may not matter pragmatically but it still matters scientifically. Just as you want to have a correct explanation of rainbows, regardless of whether this explanation has any effects on our aesthetic appreciation of them, so too you want to have a factually accurate account of apparently altruistic behavior, independently of whether this matters from a moral perspective.

Part 1:

The idea of having a "true probability" can be extremely misleading. If I flip a coin but don't look at it, I may call it a 50% probability of tails, but reality is sitting right there in my hand with probability 100%. The probability is not in the external world - the coin is already heads or tails. The probability is just 50% because I haven't looked at the coin yet.

What sometimes confuses people is that there can be things in the world that we often think of as probabilities, and those can have a true value. For example, if I have a... (read more)

If you find the truth, continue the search for it regardless.

Forget about arriving at the truth, rather practice the methods that brings you closer to truths.

The intended meaning has something to do with the Buddhist concept that the practice of Buddhism (basically meditation) is the realization of Buddhahood, and instead of accepting any Buddha you meet, you must simply continue your practice.

Today we kneel only to hypocrisy.

Unfortunately, even if the effect is real, hanging a lantern on it probably neutralizes it.

I'd certainly call them much more significant to my identity than a e.g. my deltoid muscle, or some motor function parts of my brain.

It may be useful to recognize that this is a choice, rather than an innate principle of identity. The parts that speak are just modules, just like the parts that handle motor control. They can (and often do) run autonomously, and then the module that handles generating a coherent narrative stitches together an explanation of why you "decided" to cause whatever they happened to generate.

2RichardKennaway8yThis sounds like a theory of identity as epiphenomenal homunculus. A module whose job is to sit there weaving a narrative, but which has no effect on anything outside itself (except to make the speech module utter its narrative from time to time). "Mr Volition", as Greg Egan calls it in one of his stories. Is that your view?
3ialdabaoth8yMore or less, yes. It does have some effect on things outside itself, of course, in that its 'narrative' tends to influence our emotional investment in situations, which in turn influences our reactions.
4RichardKennaway8yIt seems to me that the Mr. Volition theory suffers from the same logical flaw as p-zombies. How would a non-conscious entity, a p-zombie, come to talk about consciousness? And how does an epiphenomenon come to think it's in charge, how does it even arrive at the very idea of "being in charge", if it was never in charge of anything? An illusion has to be an illusion of something real. Fake gold can exist only because there is such a thing as real gold. There is no such thing as fake mithril, because there is no such thing as real mithril.
7ialdabaoth8yBy that analogy, then, fake gods can exist only because there is such a thing as real gods; fake ghosts can only exist because there is such a thing as real ghosts; fake magic can only exist because there is such a thing as real magic. It's perfectly possible to be ontologically mistaken about the nature of one's world.
2TheOtherDave8ySuppose I am standing next to a wall so high that I am left with the subjective impression that it just goes on forever and ever, with no upper bound. Or next to a chasm so deep that I am left with the subjective impression that it's bottomless. Would you say these subjective impressions are impossible? If possible, would you say they aren't illusory? My own answer would be that such subjective impressions are both illusory and possible, but that this is not evidence of the existence of such things as real bottomless pits and infinitely tall walls. Rather, they are indications that my imagination is capable of creating synthetic/composite data structures.
2khafra8yMesh mail "mithril" vest, $335 [http://www.pearsonsrenaissanceshoppe.com/mesh-mail-vest.html]. Setting aside the question of whether this [http://imgur.com/a/rc89v#0] is fake iron man armor, or a real costume of the fake iron man, or a fake costume designed after the fake iron man portrayed by special effects artists in the movies, I think an illusion can be anything that triggers a category recognition [http://lesswrong.com/lw/no/how_an_algorithm_feels_from_inside/] by matching some of the features strongly enough to trigger the recognition, while failing to match on a significant amount of the other features that are harder to detect at first.
2RichardKennaway8yThat's not fake mithril, it's pretend mithril [http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/11/10/]. To have the recognotion, there must have already been a category to recognise.

That depends on the parents. Yes, many parents (including mine and, presumably, yours) have the best interests of the child at heart, and have the knowledge and ability to be able to serve those interests quite well.

This is not, however, true of all parents. There's no entrance exam for parenthood. Thus:

  • Some parents are directly abusive to their children (including: many parents who abuse alcohol and/or drugs)
  • Some parents are total idiots; even if they have the best interests of the child at heart, they have no idea what to do about it
  • Some parents are
... (read more)
3Jiro8yThat's like claiming that bicycling is better than driving cars, as long as "driving cars' includes cases where the cars are missing or broken. If the parents are missing, dead, abusive, or total idiots (depending on how severe the "total" idiocy is), they can be replaced by adoptive or foster parents. You would need to compare bureaucrats to parents-with-replacement, not to parents-without-replacement, to get a meaningful comparison.
2Osiris8yA question: How many people are so attached to being experts at parenting that they would rather see children jobless, unhappy, or dead than educated by experts in a particular field (whether biology or social studies)? Those are the people I worry about, when I imagine a system in which parents/government could decide all the time what their children learn and from what institution. For every parent or official that changes their religion just to get children into the best schools, willing to give up every alliance just to get the tribe's offspring a better chance at life, and happy to give up their own authority in the name of a growing child's happiness, there are many, many more who are not so caring and fair, I fear. Experts in a field are far more likely to want to educate children better BECAUSE the above attachment to beliefs, politics, and authority is not, in their minds, in competition with their care for the children (or, at least, shouldn't be, if those same things depend upon their knowledge). So, rather than saying we trust business, government, or one's genetic donors, shouldn't we be trying to make it so that the best teachers are trusted, period? Or, am I missing the point?

Yeah, something clicked while I was reading an old encyclopedia sometime around age 7; I remember it quite vividly. My brain started being able to process chunks of text at a time instead of single words, so I could sort of focus on the middle of a short sentence or phrase and read the whole thing at once. I went from reading at about one-quarter conversation speed, to about ten times conversation speed, over the course of a few minutes. I still don't quite understand what the process was that enabled the change; I just sort of experienced it happening.

One... (read more)

2CCC8yI can see both pros and cons to this talent. The pro is obvious; faster reading. The con is that it may cause trouble parsing subtly-worded legal contracts; the sort where one misplaced word may potentially land up with both parties arguing the matter in court. Or anything else where exact wording is important, like preparing a wish for a genie. Of course, since it seems that you can choose when to use this, um, snapshot reading and when not to, you can gain the full benefit of the pros most of the time while carefully removing the cons in any situation where they become important.

Downvoted, unread. This is the place for quotes, not essays. (And if you object that there's no rule about the size of the quotes, I'll downvote you again)

8wedrifid8yThis pre-emptive chastisement seems unnecessary. My egalitarian instinct objects to the social move it represents.
3TheOtherDave8yI'm intrigued by this comment. Can you say more about what leads you to make it, given your usual expressed attitude towards appeals to egalitarian instincts?
5wedrifid8yI made it because my instincts warned me that the more forthright declaration "That was unnecessarily dickish, silence fool!" would not be well received. The reason I had the desire to express sentiment at all was due to the use of an unnecessary threat. By way of illustration, consider if I had said to you (publicly and in an aggressive tone) "If I ever catch you beating your husband I'm going to report you to the police!". That would be a rather odd thing for me to say because I haven't seen evidence of you beating your husband. Me making the threat insinuates that you are likely to beat your husband and also places me in a position of dominance over you such that I can determine your well-being conditional on you complying with my desires. If you in fact were to engage in domestic violence then it would be appropriate for me to use social force against you but since you haven't (p > 0.95) and aren't likely to it would be bizarre if I started throwing such threats around. I'm not sure what you mean. Explain and/or give an example of such an expression? My model of me rather strongly feels the egalitarian instinct and is a vocal albeit conditional supporter of it. Perhaps the instances of appeals to egalitarian instinct that you have in mind are those that I consider to be misleading or disingenuous appeals to the egalitarian instinct to achieve personal social goals? I can imagine myself opposing such instances particularly vehemently.
2TheOtherDave8yYeah, that seems plausible. True.
2Estarlio8yDowned for being unnecessarily violent and confrontational to someone who wasn't doing anything worthy of such a response....
2ialdabaoth8yUpvoted because you ACTUALLY GAVE A REASON why you downvoted, providing the OP with useful feedback.

In your example, you anticipate your own experiences, but not your husband's experiences. I don't see how this is analogous to a case of cloning, where you equally anticipate both.

In my example, my husband and I are two people, anticipating the experience of two people. In your example, I am one person, anticipating the experience of two people. It seems to me that what my husband and I anticipate in my example is analogous to what I anticipate in your example.

But, regardless, I agree that we're just disagreeing about names, and if you prefer the approach of not talking about "I expect" in such cases, that's OK with me.

The theory that there is nothing but zombies runs into the much bigger difficulty of explaining to myself why I'm a zombie. When I poke myself with a needle, I sure as hell have the qualia of pain.

And don't tell me it's an illusion - any illusion is a qualia by itself.

2Juno_Watt8yDon't tell me tell Dennett

This seems empirically false.

Dennett should be well aware that humans have a blind spot in their eyes and the brain makes up information to fill the blind spot.

No, Dennett explicitly denies that the brain makes up information to fill the blind spot. This is central to his thesis. He creates a whole concept called 'figment' to mock this notion.

His position is that nothing within the brain's narrative generators expects, requires, or needs data from the blind spot; hence, in consciousness, the blind spot doesn't exist. No gaps need to be filled in, any more that HJPEV can be aware t... (read more)

I cashed out "unanswerable" to "should be dissolved."

2[anonymous]8yThat's a good thought. I take 'should be disolved' to mean that the appropriate attitude towards an apparent question is not to try to answer it on its own terms, but to provide some account that undermines the question. I suppose Aaronson means that given a body of interrelated concepts and questions, philosophical progress amounts to isolating those that can and should be answered on their own terms from those that can't. On this reading, there are no 'unanswerable' questions, only ill-formed ones. That makes sense to me.
2shminux8yHe talks specifically about the concept of free will (emphasis below is mine): So "unanswerable" does not necessarily mean "should be dissolved", but rather that it's not clear what answering such a question "would even mean". The "breaking-off" process creates questions which can have meaningful answers. The original question may remain "undissolved", but some relevant interesting questions become answerable.
4[anonymous]8yHmm, but why should Aaronson restrict himself to understanding the skeptic's objection in terms of observable concepts (I assume he means something like 'empirical concepts')? I mean, we have good reason to operate within empiricism where we can, but it seems to me you're not allowed to let your methodology screen off a question entirely. That's bad philosophical practice.

The p-zombie doesn't, because the p-zombie is not a logically consistent concept. Imagine if there was a word that meant "four-sided triangle" - that's the level of absurdity that the 'p-zombie' idea represents.

On the other hand, the epiphenomenal consciousness (for which I'll accept the appelature 'homunculus' until a more consistent and accurate one occurs to me) is simply mistaken in that it is drawing too large a boundary in some respects, and too small a boundary in others. It's drawing a line around certain phenomena and ascribing a causal... (read more)

Or more precisely:

The problem with the world is fools and fanatics are so sure of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. -- Bertrand Russell

..Most actors don't think enough, and most thinkers don't act enough. cf. Dunning-Kruger effect.

Extroverts and Introverts typically line up with those two categories quite neatly, and in my observation tend to associate mainly with people of similar temperament (allowing them to avoid much of the pressure to be more balanced they'd find in a less homogenous social circle). I believe that this lack of balan... (read more)

(though in what circumstances the freeze response isn't stupid, I have no idea)

When you're hoping the saber-tooth tiger won't notice you.

Idealism increases in direct proportion to one's distance from the problem.

-- John Galsworthy

"Why do people worry about mad scientists? It's the mad engineers you have to watch out for." - Lochmon

Considering the "mad scientists" keep building stuff, perhaps the question is "Why do people keep calling mad engineers mad scientists?"

By the way, Sam Harris wrote an essay starting with this quote, called 'Killing the Buddha'.


As far as I'm concerned, insight, intuition, and recognition are all synonymous.

Herbert Simon

As far as I'm concerned, insight, intuition, and recognition are all synonymous.

Calling different but somewhat related things the same when they are not does not warrant "rationality quote" status.

I acknowledge & respect this criticism, but for two reasons I maintain Simon had a worthwhile insight(!) here that bears on rationality:

  1. Insight, intuition & recognition aren't quite the same, but they overlap greatly and are closely related.

  2. Simon's comment, although not literally true, is a fertile hypothesis that not only opens eyeholes into the black boxes of "insight" & "intuition", but produces useful predictions about how minds solve problems.

I should justify those. Chapter 4 of Simon's The Sciences of the Artificial, "Remembering and Learning: Memory as Environment for Thought", is relevant here. It uses chess as a test case:

[...] one part of the grandmaster's chess skill resides in the 50,000 chunks stored in memory, and in the index (in the form of a structure of feature tests) that allows him to recognize any one of these chunks on the chess board and to access the information in long-term memory that is associated with it. The information associated with familiar patterns may include knowledge about what to do when the pattern is encountered. Thus the experienced chess player who recognizes the feature called an open file

... (read more)
5wedrifid8yIndependent of whether the particular quote is labelled a rationality quote, Simon had an undeniable insight in the linked article and your explanation thereof is superb! To the extent that this level of research, organisation and explanation seems almost wasted on a comment. I'll look forward to reading your future contributions (be they comments or, if you have a topic worth explaining, posts).

For evolutionary reasons, parents have a strong desire to do what's best for their child, bureaucracies on the other hand have all kinds of motivations (especially perpetuating the bureaucracy).

Evolution is satisfied if at least some of the children live to breed. There are several possible strategies that parents can follow here; having many children and encouraging promiscuity would satisfy evolutionary reasons and likely do so better than having few children and ensuring that they are properly educated. Evolutionary reasons are insufficient to ensure... (read more)

6Eugine_Nier8yIt doesn't (and can't) work this way in practice. In practice what happens is that there is a disagreement between the bureaucracy and the parents. In that case whose views should prevail? If you answer "the bureaucracy's" your floor is now also a ceiling, if you answer "the parents' " you've just gutted your floor. If you want to answer "the parents' if their average or better and the bureaucracy's otherwise" then the question becomes whose job is it to make that judgement, and we're back to the previous two cases.
3Viliam_Bur7yI am not sure why exactly it does not work this way, but as a matter of fact, it does not. Specifically I am thinking about department of education in Slovakia. As far as I know, it works approximately like this: There are two kinds of people there; elected and unelected. The elected people (not sure if only the minister, or more people) only care about short-term impression on their voters. They usually promise to "reform the school system" without being more specific, which is always popular, because everyone knows the system is horrible. There is no system behind the changes, it is usually a random drift of "we need one less hour of math, and one more hour of English, because languages are important" and "we need one less hour of English and one more hour of math, because former students can't do any useful stuff"; plus some new paperwork for teachers. The unelected people don't give a shit about anything. They just sit there, take their money, and expect to sit there for the next decades. They have zero experience with teaching, and they don't care. They just invent more paperwork for teachers, because then the existing paperwork explains why their jobs are necessary (someone must collect all the data, retype it to Excel, and create reports). The minister usually has no time or does not care enough to understand their work, optimize it, and fire those who are not needed. It is very easy for a bureaucrat to create a work for themselves, because paperwork recursively creates more paperwork. These people are not elected, so they don't fear the votes; and the minister is dependent on their cooperation, so they don't fear the minister.

"Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right." --Isaac Asimov

All too often, an intuition creates mistakes which rationality must remedy, when one is presented with a complex problem in life. No fault of the intuition, of course--it is merely the product of nature.

Ehh.. Todays children are often subject to much more limited familial authority than were 19th century women. It is for example illegal to use physical force on them in a great many places.

If I am precisely cloned, I should anticipate either clone's experience with 50% probability

Shouldn't you anticipate being either clone with 100% probability, since both clones will make that claim and neither can be considered wrong?

That could work! On the other hand, it may set up a situation where a person who is only guilty of being raised in the wrong place may never get a decent job. Wonder what can be done to prevent that as much as possible?

... from my perspective, this process of “breaking off” answerable parts of unanswerable riddles, then trying to answer those parts, is the closest thing to philosophical progress that there is.

Scott Aaronson in The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine.

Second clarifying question, then: Can you describe what 'identifying the loop' would look like?

Quick clarifying question: How small does something need to be for you to consider it a "circuit"?

Hijacking this thread to ask if anybody else experiences this - when I watch a movie told from the perspective of a single character or with a strong narrator, my internal monologue/narrative will be in that character's/narrator's tone of voice and expression for the next hour or two. Anybody else?

3Ratcourse8yhttp://fc02.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2010/110/9/8/Good_News_Everyone_by_martynasx.jpg [http://fc02.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2010/110/9/8/Good_News_Everyone_by_martynasx.jpg] Did it work for you?
2itaibn08yI find that sometimes, after reading for a long time, the verbal components of my thoughts resemble the writing style of what I read.
1taelor8yNot exactly what you are asking for, but I've found that if I spend an extended period of time (usually around a week) heavily interacting with a single person or group of people, I'll start mentally reading things in their voice(s).
1Ronak8yWhile reading books. Always particular voices for every character. So much so, I can barely sit through adaptations of books I've read. And my opinion of a writer always drops a little bit when I meet hjm/her, and the voice in my head just makes more sense for that style.

You're claiming that you understand his thought better than he does. That is a severe accusation and is not epistemologically justified. Also, I can't recall off the top of my head any time somebody insulted me, I think my reaction would depend on the context, but I don't see why it will involve imagined words.

2ChristianKl8yHow do you know that there's no epistemological justification? So, how do I know? Empirical experience at NLP seminars. At the beginning plenty of people say that they don't have an internal dialoge, that they can't view mental images or that they can't perceive emotions within their own body. It's something that usually get's fixed in a short amount of time. Around two month ago I was chatting with a girl who had two voices in her head. One that did big picture thinking and another that did analytic thinking. She herself wasn't consciously aware that one of the voices came from the left and the other from the right. After I told her which voice came from which direction, she checked and I was right. I can't diagnose what Baughn does with internal dialog in the same depth through online conversation but there nothing that stops me from putting forth generally observations about people who believe that they have no internal dialog until they were taught to perceive it. Yes, you don't see imagined words. That's kind of the point of words. You either hear them or don't hear them. If you try to see them you will fail. If you try to perceive your internal dialog that way you won't see any internal dialog. But why did I pick that example? It's emotional. Being insulted frequently get's people to reflect on themselves and the other person. They might ask themselves: "Why did he do that?" or answer to themselves "No, he has no basis for making that claim." In addition judgement is usually done via words. I'm however not sure whether I can build up enough awareness in Baughn via text based online conversation that he can pick up his mental dialog. If you don't have strong internal dialog it doesn't surprise me that you aren't good at recalling a type of event that usually goes with strong internal dialog.

I think the quote is alluding to capital 'S' scientist rather than a particular group of humans. In theory a Scientist's cause to be correct, while human scientists want to be right.

I agree with you; the context from earlier in the strip was about reading a study with evidence pointing to T-rexes being a timid scavenger, and then getting transported back in time and seeing a T-rex acting timid.

Didn't we do this last month ?

Apparently the Buddha has reincarnated, so we need to kill him again. It's like playing the World of Warcraft.

You may be thinking your priorities are more typical than they are. A straight forward utilitarian might think its a reasonable view / goal. There are lots of people out there.

As a more general point rationality doesn't speak to end goals, it speaks to achieving those goals. See orthogonality hypothesis.

Not everyone who speaks about morality automatically sinks down into nonsense and intuition, into the depths of accusations and praise for particular persons, however strange the language they use. Sometimes, speaking about morality means speaking about rationality, surviving and thriving, etc. It may be a mistake to think that Asimov was entirely ignorant of the philosophies this website promotes, given his work in science and the quotes one finds from his interviews, letters, and stories.

[-][anonymous]8y 3

How comes six people downvoted this? While I can think of a few relevant differences between women then and children today, it's not so obvious to me that they'd be so obvious to everybody as to justify unexplained downvotes.

6ialdabaoth8yMy guess is extended pattern-matching on Eugine Nier's typical post content, along with a huge helping of annoyance with the excluded middle. "This is a reductio ad absurdum of Mill's argument" "you honestly favor treating 5-year olds as legal adults". Are these honestly the only two possible readings of the original post? If not, is it more likely - based on past history of all parties - to assume that Eugine Nier honestly could not conceive of a third option, or merely that a rhetorical tactic was being employed to make their opponent look bad? Based on what is most likely occurring (evaluated, of course, differently by each person reading), is this post a flower or a weed? Then you tend the garden.

Thanks for the cite: sadly, on clicking through, I get a menacing error message in a terrifying language, so evidently you can't share it that way? You are quite right that it's consistent. It's just that it surprised my model, which was saying "if realistic mental imagery is going to happen anywhere, surely it's going to be dreams, that seems obviously the time-of-least-contention-for-visual-workspace."

I'm beginning to wonder whether any useful phenomenology at all survives the Typical Mind Fallacy. Right now, if somebody turned up claiming that... (read more)

3CCC8yHmmm. Well, I don't speak Klingon, but I am bilingual (English/Afrikaans); my inner monologue runs in English all the time in general but, after reading this, I decided to try running it in Afrikaans for a bit. Just to see what happens. Now, my Afrikaans is substantially poorer than my English (largely, I suspect, due to lack of practice). My inner monologue switches languages very quickly on command; however, there are some other interesting differences that happen. First of all, my inner monologue is rather drastically slowed down. I have a definite sense of having to wait for my brain to look up the right word to describe the concept I mean; that is, there is a definite sense that I know what I am thinking before I wrap it in the monologue. (This is absent when my internal monologue is in the default English; possibly because my English monologue is fast enough that I don't notice the delay). I think that that delay is the first time that I've noticed anticipatory thinking in my own head without the monologue. There's also grammatical differences between the two languages; an English sentence translated to Afrikaans will come out with a different word order (most of the time). This has its effect on my internal monologue as well; there's a definite sense of the meanings being delivered to my language centres (or at least to the word-looking-up part thereof) in the order that would be correct for an English sentence, and the language centre having to hold certain meanings in a temporary holding space (or something) until I get to the right part of the sentence. I also notice that my brain slips easily back into the English monologue; that's no doubt due mainly to force of habit, and did not come as a surprise.

I was under the impression you wanted to improve things significantly. Hence why I mentioned that issue--and it IS an issue.

Matt isn't a mainstream journalist. On the other hand he writes about stuff that you can easily document instead of writing about Rothschilds, Masons and the Illuminati.

He isn't the kind of person who cares about symbolic issues such as whether the members of the Bohemian grove do mock human sacrifices.

In the post I link to he makes his case by arguing facts.

There's the alternative "gambit" of ascribing altruism to the emotional response it invokes in the altruistic individual.

Careful, there are some tricky conceptual waters here. Strictly, anything I want to do can be ascribed to my emotional response to it, because that's how nature made us pursue goals. "They did it because of the emotional response it invoked" is roughly analogous to "They did it because their brain made them do it."

The cynical claim would be that if people could get the emotional high without the altruisti... (read more)

[-][anonymous]8y 3

I wouldn't say I literally hear the voice; I can easily distinguish it from sounds I'm actually hearing. But the experience is definitely auditory, at least some of the time; I could tell you whether the voice is male or female, what accent they're speaking in (usually my own), how high or low the voice is, and so on.

I definitely also have non-auditory thoughts as well. Sometimes they're visual, sometimes they're spatial, and sometimes they don't seem to have any sensory-like component at all. (For what it's worth, visual and spatial thoughts are essential to the way I think about math.)

I think it's entirely wrong for Americans to sympathize with Boston victims while disregarding and in many cases outright denying the existence of victims of drone strikes. It's hypocrisy at its finest and especially rich coming from self-proclaimed Christians.

That is exactly the problem with nationalism.

I suspect you're probably saying that it's understandable for Americans only to feel the reality of this kind of cruelty when it affects "their own", and my response is that it may be understandable, but then so are the mechanisms of cancer.

--... (read more)

6simplicio8yThe author may "have a point" as they say, but it doesn't qualify as a rationality quote by my lights; more of a rhetoric quote. One red flag is Who denies their existence?
2shminux8yI'm pretty sure that what was meant is "innocent victims". While still a stretch, it would then shift to discussing the meaning of "innocent" vs insinuating that the US military is so inept, it cannot shoot straight and makes up stuff to cover it.
2wedrifid8yThis seems accurate. The quote is a bunch of applause lights and appeals to identity strung together support a political agenda. Sure, I entirely support the particular political agenda in question but just because it is 'my team' being supported doesn't make the process of shouting slogans noteworthy rationality material. If the religion based shaming line and the "in many cases outright denying the existence of victims of drone strikes" hyperbole were removed or replaced then the quote could have potential.
1Eliezer Yudkowsky8yPrinciple of charity: "Denial of existence" is to taken as meaning "Don't think about, don't care about, don't act based on, don't know how many there were" and not "When explicitly asked if drone strikes have victims, say 'no'."

There is already a word for "don't think about, don't care about, don't act based on, don't know how many there were". That word is "disregarding", which is used in the original quote. It then adds, a fortiori, "and in many cases outright denying the existence of victims of drone strikes". In that context, it cannot mean anything but "explicitly say that there are no victims", and in addition, that this has actually happened in "many" cases.

9Eliezer Yudkowsky8yHm, good point. I still suspect it's metaphorical. Then again, in a world where Fox News is currently saying how Edward Snowden may be a Chinese double agent, it may also be literal and truthful.

By "in many cases outright denying the existence of victims of drone strikes", I think that the author meant "in many cases (i.e., many strikes), outright denying that some of the victims are in fact victims."

The author is probably referring to the reported policy of considering all military-age males in a strike-zone to be militants (and hence not innocent victims). I take the author to be claiming that (1) non-militant military-age male victims of drone strikes exist in many cases, and (2) the reported policy amounts to "outright denying the existence" of those victims.

2NancyLebovitz8yThat's how I read it. The claim isn't that no one was killed by drone strikes, it's that no one innocent was killed, so there are no victims.
2Tyrrell_McAllister8yYes. Furthermore, the "many cases" doesn't refer to many people who think that there has never been an innocent victim of a drone strike. Rather, the "many cases" refers to the (allegedly) many innocent victims killed whose existence (as innocents) was denied by reclassifying them as militants.
2wedrifid8yGiving charity is fine. However the principle of charity does not extend to obliging that we applaud, share and propose as inspirational guidelines those things that require such charity in order to not be nonsense.
6TimS8yDoesn't that depend on the amount of work the reader needs to find a charitable reading? And whether the author would completely endorse the charitable reading? One could probably charitably read a rationalist-friendly message into the public speeches of Napoleon on the nobility of dying in battle, but it likely would require a lot of intellectual contortions, and Napoleon almost certainly would not endorse the result. So we shouldn't applaud that charitable reading. But I think the charitable reading of the quote from the OP is straightforward enough that the need to apply the principle of charity is not an independent reason to reject the quote. Simplicio's rejection could be complete and coherent even if he had applied the principle of charity - essentially, drawing a distinction between "rhetoric" and "rationality principle." It might be that the distinction often makes reference to usage of the principle of charity, but that is different from refusing to apply the principle to a rationality quote.
1wedrifid8yYes. A little bit. It is the case that when I see a quote that is being defended by appeal to the principle of charity I will be more inclined to downvote said quote than if I had not seen such a justification. As best as I can tell this is in accord with the evidence that such statements provide and my preferences about what kind of quotes I encounter in the 'rationalist quotes' thread. This is not the same thing as 'refusing to apply the principle of charity'.
1TimS8yFair enough. I think the nub of our disagreement is whether the author must endorse the interpretation for it to be considered a "charitable" reading. I think the answer is yes. If the interpretation is an improvement but the author wouldn't endorse, I think it is analytically clearer to avoid calling that a "charitable" reading, and instead directly call it steelmanning. There's no reason to upvote a rationality quote that requires steelmanning (and many, many reasons not to). But if we all know what the author "really meant," it seems reasonable to upvote based on that meaning. That said, I recognize that it is very easy to mistakenly identify a charitable reading as the consensus reading (i.e. to steelman when you meant to read charitably).
1wedrifid8yI agree. That's a good distinction and a sufficient (albeit not necessary) cause to call it steelmanning. In this case "in many cases outright denying the existence of victims of drone strikes" is rather strong and unambiguous language. It is clear that the author is just exaggerating his claims to enhance emotional emphasis but we have to also acknowledge that he went out of his way to say 'outright denying' when he could have said something true instead. He 'really meant' to speak a falsehood for persuasive effect. What Eliezer did was translate from the language of political rhetoric into what someone might say if they were making a rationalist quote instead. That's an excellent thing to do to such rhetoric but if that is required then the quote shouldn't be in this thread in the first place. Maybe we can have a separate thread for "rationalist translations of inspirational or impressive quotes". (Given the standard of what people tend to post as rationalist quotes we possibly need one.)
7TimS8yAfter considering RichardKennaway's point [http://lesswrong.com/lw/hlk/rationality_quotes_june_2013/96o1], I'm coming to realize that Eliezer's interpretation is not "charitable" because it isn't clear that the original speaker would endorse Eliezer's reading. Since this is what Rationality Quotes has apparently turned into, I'm not sure that the thread type is worth trying to save.

People who are depressed can quite reasonably want to raise their level of happiness-- their baseline is below what makes sense for their situation.

There's a difference between wanting to raise one's level of happiness and wanting to raise it as high as possible.

In the sense of the experience not happening if that circuit doesn't work, yes.
In the sense of being able to give a soup-to-nuts story of how events in the world result in a subjective experience that has that specific character, no.

More generally, my non-rigorous standard for "me" is such that all of my remembered states when I wasn't sleeping, delirious, or younger than 16 or so unambiguously qualify for "me"dom, despite varying rather broadly amongst themselves. This is mostly because the maximum variation along salient parameters among that set of states seems significantly smaller than the minimum variations between that set and the various other sets of states I observe others demonstrating. (If I lived in a community seeded by copies of myself-as-of-five-mi

... (read more)

But if 'I' differ day to day, then doesn't this body differ day to day too?

Certainly. How far do you want to go? Maps are not territories, but some maps provide useful representations of territories for certain contexts and purposes.

The danger represented by "I" and "is" come from their tendency to blow away the map-territory relation, and convince the reader that an identity exists between a particular concept and a particular phenomenon.

What needs tabooing is "same" and "thing".

I have also found that process useful (although like 'I', there are contexts where it is very cumbersome to get around using them).

"I am a construction worker"

This body works construction.

Jobs are a particularly egregious case where tabooing "is" seems like a good idea - do you find the idea that people "are" their jobs a particularly useful encapsulation of the human experience? Do you, personally find your self fully encapsulated by the ritualized economic actions you perform?

High, if they happen to be foundational.

Sometimes you get spandrels, and sometimes you get systems built on foundations that are no longer what we would call "adaptive", but that can't be removed without crashing systems that are adaptive.

Yes(ish), on the basis that the change between me(expr1) and me(expr2) is small enough that assigning them a single consistent identity is more convenient than acknowledging the differences.

But if I'm operating in a more rigorous context, then no; under most circumstances that appear to require epistemological rigor, it seems better to taboo concepts like "I" and "is" altogether.

Shooting the messenger! :-(

Alas, our poor community! It’s too frightened to look at itself. LessWrong is no longer the land where we were born; it’s the land where we’ll die. Where no one ever smiles except for the fool who knows nothing. Where sighs, groans, and shrieks rip through the air but no one notices. Where violent sorrow is a common emotion. When the funeral bells ring, people no longer ask who died. Good men die before the flowers in their caps wilt. They die before they even fall sick.


(In all earnestness, it works better with comment... (read more)

there's a difference between telling somebody what you think and outright stating that their subjective self-image is factually incorrect.

I appear to be confused.

Are you implying that subjective self-image is something that we should respect rather than analyze?

4FeepingCreature8yI think there's a difference between analysis and authoritive-sounding statements like "X is not actually a part of you, you are wrong about this", especially when it comes to personal attributes like selfness, especially in a thread demonstrating the folly of the typical-mind assumption.
3ialdabaoth8yInteresting. It was not my intent to sound any more authoritative than typical. Are there particular signals that indicate abnormally authoritarian-sounding statements that I should watch out for? And are there protocols that I should be aware of here that determine who is allowed to sound more or less authoritarian than whom, and under what circumstances?
  1. Where does that intersect with "that which can be destroyed by the truth, should be"?

  2. "I'm dying to know whether we're stumbling on a difference in the way we think or the way we describe what we think, here." wasn't asking?

Once we accept that knowledge is tentative, and that we are probably going to improve our knowledge in important ways when we learn more about the world, we are less likely to reject new information that conflicts with our present ideas.

-Dr. Raymond Peat

I'm not sure I agree in the general case, and I think that among LessWrongers things are certainly unbalanced in the other direction.

The secret is to make wanting the truth your entire identity, right. If your persona is completely stripped down to just "All I care about is the facts", then the steps disappear, the obstacles are gone. Tyranosaurus was a scavenger? Okay! And then you walk right up to it without hesitation. The evidence says the killer was someone else? Okay, see you later sir, sorry for the inconvenience, wanna go bowling later now that we're on a first name basis? And so on. Just you and a straight path to the truth. That is how you become perfect.

4pinyaka8yAlso from Subnormality: the perils of AI foom [http://www.viruscomix.com/page408.html].
3Qiaochu_Yuan8yThis seems like a silly identity to have. When does someone who just wants the truth ever act, other than for the purpose of acquiring truth?
1Dorikka8yObligatory note [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/2-place_and_1-place_words] so that people don't get undesired value drift from a particular usage of English.

I didn't mean to imply that a rational person should be willing to pay any possible price to raise his happiness.

Sometimes it feels like everyone's / being a dick.
But they're not, / it's just you being a dick to every one.
Some days it seems like nothing / works right.
But its fine, / you're probably using it wrong.

You wanna change the world you better / start with yourself.
Charity starts at home in the / skin you're in.
I'm not saying you should go and / change your face.
But if it bothers you that much / you should get a nose job.

I'm talking about what lies beneath / the black and white
There's a mass of gray,
it is called your brain.

Imani Coppola

7wedrifid8yA nice ideal. It'd be better world than this one if it were true. Sometimes if it feels like everyone's being a dick it is actually because you are being not enough of a dick to everyone (at times when you ought to). Ever been to high school? Or, you know, interacted significantly with humans. Or even studied rudimentary game theory with which to establish priors for the likely behaviour of other agents conditional on your own. The world is not fair. Reject the Just World fallacy. Sometimes things don't work because you chose bad things (or people) to work with. If something isn't working either do it differently or do something else entirely that is better. Personal responsibility is great, and rejecting 'victim' thinking is beneficial. But self delusion is not required and is not (always) beneficial.

Yea I sometimes struggle with that: Taken at face value, the quote is of course trivially wrong. However, it can be steelmanned in a few interesting ways. Then again, so can a great many random quotes. If, say, EY posted that quote, people may upvote after thinking of a steelmanned version. Whereas with someone else, fewer readers will bother, and downvote since at a first approximation the statement is wrong. What do, I wonder?

(Example: "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!" - Well downvoted, because killing is wrong! Or upvoted, because e.g. even "you may hold no sacred beliefs" isn't sacred? Let's find out.)

Since as lukeprog writes one of the methods for becoming happier is to "Develop the habit of gratitude" here is a quote of stuff to be thankful for: "

  • The taxes I pay because it means that I am employed

  • The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat

  • My shadow who watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine

  • A lawn that has to be mowed, windows that have to be washed, and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home

  • The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I

... (read more)

I would still have enough to eat if my clothes fit, I would still have a home if my lawn were self-mowing, I would still be able to hear if she sang more tunefully, I would still be alive if I didn't set my alarm, etc. Taking advantage of these sorts of moments as opportunities to practice gratitude is a fine practice, but it's far better to practice gratitude for the thing I actually want (enough to eat, a home, hearing, life, etc.) than for the indicators of it I'd prefer to be rid of.

2James_Miller8yThe goal is to turn something that would otherwise cause you distress into a tool of your own happiness. When something bad happens to you seek a legitimate reason of why it's a sign of something positive in your life.
2Jiro8yThe idea that we try to optimize happiness in the sense you imply is a simplification. Blissful ignorance provides happiness, but most people don't consider it a worthy goal. Yet this suggestion is basically "try to achieve blissful ignorance, rather than not liking bad things". It does not follow that because X is not possible without Y, and Y is good, therefore X is good. Trying to believe that X is good on these grounds is some variation of willful blindness and blissful ignorance.
4James_Miller8yHappiness is a state of mind, not a condition of the territory. True by tautology. I completely agree. But the following is correct: X is not possible without Y, and Y makes me happy, therefore when I encounter X, I as a rational person who seeks useful emotions and wishes to raise my level of happiness, would benefit from being able to use the relationship between X and Y to raise my happiness even if my brain would lower my happiness if it encountered X and didn't consider the relationship between X and Y.

I'm fairly certain that's not how you're supposed to develop a habit of gratitude. It's not about doublithinking yourself into believing you like things that you dislike; it's to help you notice more things you like.

I've been doing a gratitude journal. I write three short notes from the last day where I was thankful for something a person did (eg, saving me a brownie or something). Then I take the one that makes me happiest and write a 1 paragraph description of what occurred, how I felt, and such that writing the paragraph makes me relive the moment. Then I write out a note (that is usually later transcribed) to a past person in my gratitude journal.

When I think of that person or think back to that day, I'm immediately able to recall any nice things they did that I wrote down. Also, as I go through my life, I'm constantly looking for things to be thankful for, and notice and remember them more easily.

If you do something like in the quote, it seem more likely that you'll remember negative things (that you pretend to be positive). It goes against the point of the exercise.

9DanArmak8yThat just doesn't sound appropriate. It's as if you're saying, the alarm means I have to live through another day which I'll hate, but it's still better than not living at all, and that's the best thing I can find to be happy about every morning! You might as well say: I'm glad I'm sick, because that means I'm not dead yet.
5Nisan8yHere [http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jlawler/dones.html] is another quote by Borges of stuff to be thankful for. English [http://crashinglybeautiful.tumblr.com/post/13255126358/another-poem-of-the-gifts] .
2BillyOblivion8yPain is good, it tells you you're still alive. All in all though, I'd rather have the alive w/out the pain. At least as far as I know.

We prefer wrong information to no information.

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli, p. 33.

I prefer to quantify my lack of information and call it a prior. Then it's even better than wrong information!

"If atoms are really to explain the origin of color and smell of visible material bodies, then they cannot possess properties like color and smell."

I want to point out that in this post, you were quoting sediment quoting Hofstadter who was referencing Hanson's quoting of Heisenberg. Pretty sure even Inception didn't go that deep.

It's not just the words you're squeezing, it's the medium — the fact that the words are written in graffiti.

I agree that a nice neighborhood is the point of paying rent, and your comment about people who want to live in slums, etc. I'm not sure that graffiti by itself constitutes neighborhood-not-niceness, but of course it's correlated with lots of other things, and there's the broken windows theory, etc.

To a poor person, having walls at all is more important than having white walls.

2RichardKennaway8yTo a poor person, having a car at all is more important than having one with no dents in the panels. I don't see that as justifying vandalising the cars at a second-hand dealer by night so as to pick one up cheap the next day. But we're working from just four words of graffiti here, from an unknown author, and the site where Google led me from the original German text is dead.

LW jargon. Neither Asimov nor the intended audience would necessarily make that distinction.

The jargon introduction was yours, not Asimov's or mine and your interpretation of his advice to be telling to people to ignore ethical injunctions is uncharitable as a reading of his intent and mistaken as a claim about the how the LW concept applies.

Not really once you consider where said intuitions come from.

Yes, really. I don't know what you are basing this 'consideration' on.

An example of following Asimov's advice would be someone with strong moral sense... (read more)

What we need is some sort of system in which any proposed complication is viewed as more bothersome than earlier complications.

--Scott Adams, I Want My Cheese

[-][anonymous]8y 2

It's possible to have both a strong reason to care, and weak evidence, ie due the moral hazard dependent on some doubtful proposition.

I don't think that's the situation here though. That sounds like a description of this situation: (imagine) we have weak evidence that 1) snakes are sapient, and we grant that 2) sapience is morally significant. Therefore (perhaps) we should avoid wonton harm to snakes.

Part of why this argument might make sense is that (1) and (2) are independent. Our confidence in (2) is not contingent on the small probability that (1) ... (read more)

1TheOtherDave8yDoes the situation change significantly if "the situation with qualia" is instead framed as A) snakes have qualia and B) qualia are morally significant?
4[anonymous]8yYes, if the implication of (A) is that we're agreed on the reality of qualia but are now wondering whether or not snakes have them. No, if (A) is just a specific case of the general question 'are qualia real?'. My point was probably put in a confusing way: all I mean to say was that Juno seemed to be arguing as if it were possible to be very confident about the moral significance of qualia while being only marginally confident about their reality.

Reading through some AI literature, I stumbled upon a nicely concise statement of the core of decision theory, from Lindley (1985):

...there is essentially only one way to reach a decision sensibly. First, the uncertainties present in the situation must be quantified in terms of values called probabilities. Second, the various consequences of the courses of action must be similarly described in terms of utilities. Third, that decision must be taken which is expected — on the basis of the calculated probabilities — to give the greatest utility. The force o

... (read more)

Moral implications of a proposition in the absence of evidence one way or another for that proposition are insufficient to justify caring.
If I actually care about the experiences of minds capable of experiences, I do best to look for evidence for the presence or absence of such experiences.
Failing such evidence, I do best to concentrate my attention elsewhere.

For my part, my social intuitions respond differently to those cases for two major reasons, as far as I can tell. First, I seem to have a higher expectation that someone will respond to an explanation of a downvote with a legalistic objection than that they will beat their spouses, so responding to the possibility of the former seems more justified. In fact, the former seems entirely plausible, while the second seems unlikely. Second, being accused of the latter seems much more serious than being accused of the former, and require correspondingly stronger ... (read more)

Isn't our objection to A's position that it doesn't pay rent in anticipated experience?

This may be a situation where that's a messy question. After all, qualia are experience. I keep expecting experiences, and I keep having experiences. Do experiences have to be publicly verifiable?

3TheOtherDave8yIf two theories both lead me to anticipate the same experience, the fact that I have that experience isn't grounds for choosing among them. So, sure, the fact that I keep having experiences is grounds for preferring a theory of subjective-experience-explaining-but-otherwise-mysterious qualia over a theory that predicts no subjective experience at all, but not necessarily grounds for preferring it to a theory of subjective-experience-explaining-neural-activity.

Would you expect that reply to convince A?
Or would you just accept that A might go on believing that there's something important and ineffable left to explain about containment, and there's not much you can do about it?
Or something else?

Have you two lost your original?

I can no longer remember if there was actually an active David when I joined, or if I just picked the name on a lark. I frequently introduce myself in real life as "Dave -- no, not that Dave, the other one."

The principle here is that an attribute x of an entity A is not explained by reference to a constituent entity B that has the same property. The strength of an arch is a property of arches, for example, not of the things from which arches are constituted.

That doesn't imply that theremust be a B in the first place, merely that whether there is or not, referring to B.x in order to explain A.x leaves x unexplained. (Of course, if there is no B, referring to B.x has other problems as well.)

I suspect the "top"/"bottom"/"level" anal... (read more)

You could have all the human information in the world about all the human things in it, and a post-Singularity AI able to semantically interpret it all. And yet still not understand why events happen, what a leader should want to happen, or what is actually going to happen next. But the great powers of the modern world–states and civic institutions alike–must always pretend to be on the road to mastering all of that, and they must pretend that mastery will derive from information, analysis and science, not from choices and beliefs and values.

Timothy Burke

You may have missed the idea of a quote here.

[-][anonymous]8y 2

I think you were downvoted too hastily.

I don't think a single downvote is that significant. I've seen so many inexplicable downvotes that I would suspect there's a bot that every time a new comment is posted generates a random number between 0 and 1 and downvotes the comment if the random number is less than 0.05 -- if I could see any reason why anyone would do that.

4wedrifid8yNow that you've suggested it...
1ialdabaoth8yIt actually depends on how many total votes the post in question has accumulated, and how much karma the user in question has accumulated. A completely new user doesn't need to have to worry about anomalous downvotes, because they're too new to have a reputation. Likewise, a well-established user doesn't need to worry about anomalous downvotes, because they get lost in the underflow. I'd say somewhere around the 200 mark it can become problematic to one's reputation; and, of course, one or two consecutive anomalous downvotes that act as the first votes on a given post can easily set a trend to bury that post before anyone has a chance to usefully comment on it.
1[anonymous]8y(If much more than 5% of the comments in a thread/by a user are downvoted, then it's probably not my hypothetical bot's fault.)

S/he is making a pun of the typo: "what grater proof..." instead of "what greater proof...". (I don't find it a very funny pun myself.)

Sorry, I don't understand your rephrasing. Must be the inference gap between a philosopher and a scientist.

[-][anonymous]8y 2

The colour of the sky? What direction a rock goes if you drop it from near the ground?


I'm just opinionated on the subject.

8Eliezer Yudkowsky8yMAHOU SHOUJO TRANSHUMANIST NANOHA "Girl," whispered Precia. The little golden-haired girl's eyes were fluttering open, amid the crystal cables connecting the girl's head to the corpse within its stasis field. "Girl, do you remember me?" It took the girl some time to speak, and when she did, her voice was weak. "Momma...?" The memories were there. The brain pattern was there. Her daughter was there. "Momma...?" repeated Alicia, her voice a little stronger. "Why are you crying, Momma? Did something happen? Where are