# 16

We know that mainstream thinking gets a lot of things wrong. Many of us have experienced being mocked because of our concern for AI extinction-risk. There are plenty of other examples of times where now well-evidenced beliefs were seen as crazy in some way. This post was prompted by my reading around meditation and mindfulness - twenty years ago if you said that meditation had a number of mental and even physical health benefits and was worth practicing for non-religious reasons, then you would be laughed at as a New Age type who probably believed in crystal healing and astrology too. Now there's stacks of scientific evidence supporting that view.

I would like to keep an open mind and not dismiss fact-claims just because they pattern-match to weird people or because they don't pass the absurdity heuristic. On the other hand, there are a lot of crazy people out there and I don't really want to wade through dumb stuff by flat-earth types. So I figured posting this question here is a good way to find some interesting ideas. Fellow Rationalists, what beliefs do you have that would cause the average member of society to laugh at you or call you weird?

I have at least one such belief, but I'll post it as an answer to this question, because I want the focus to be on the question and not on my specific belief.

Edited to add: please include a summary of why you believe what you do - what evidence or chain of reasoning led you to this belief?

New Comment

# 13 Answers sorted by top scoring

CellBioGuy

### Apr 15, 2021

57

I think there could be a 5% chance that the paleocene-eocene thermal maximum 55 million years ago was the result of a prior global industrial civilization.  Conditional on that being the case, high probability they were birds and a decent possibility they lived on Antarctica.

We are an existence proof for smart industrial animals being a thing that can happen on Earth.  We are not an existence proof of smart industrial animals lasting for geologically long periods of time.  There is not necessarily reason to think that just because you are successful in an epoch that you burn the black rocks that you will continue to be so.

As you go back in time the fossil record degrades drastically and many species at this time are known from single digit numbers of specimens.  The PETM resembles what we are doing to the earth system entirely too closely, from a large release of biogenic carbon within a few thousand years to the spike in mercury levels to ocean anoxia.  At the time primates did not exist in significant diversity and any that did exist were tiny, but birds, whose brains differ from the default tetrapod brains in ways quite similar to the way that of primates do and allows very easy increase in neuron number, did exist in profound diversity.

We are tropical animals and spread across the entire world because we came from the hottest place on Earth and you can keep us warm just by wrapping us in clothes in a low-tech way.  If somebody evolved on the coldest parts of Earth, you need high technology (refrigeration) to survive anywhere else and they could be limited to polar latitudes, including the only continent we have almost no geological record of and has been poorly explored - Antarctica.  Antarctica and nearby continents also bore multiple great-ape-sized flightless bird lineages at this time, and was temperate while Canada was full of Amazon-style rainforest and the equator bore stifling hot supertropics.

Corollary:  Industrial civilization is an unstable self-limiting phenomenon and will be gone in centuries to millennia.

I love the idea, but I’m sceptical based on genetics. Our civilisation has moved a lot of species around, from stuff like bringing placental mammals to Australia to things like exporting food crops around the world. Potatoes evolved in the Americas, now you can find them everywhere. Soy beans came from Japan / East Asia but now they’re heavily cultivated in Brazil.

I assume that any previous industrial civilisation, even if it were less adaptable than humans, would probably have spread outside of its home continent, if only to look for oil and minerals. And they’d end up introducing species all over the place, like we have, and modern day geneticists should be scratching their heads and trying to figure out all sorts of mysteries about what evolved where. But so far as I know (I’m not an evolutionary biologist) we just don‘t have those sort of mysteries where species categories suddenly jump continents.

So, sadly, I don’t think that the Earth has had a previous industrial civilisation at least since Australia separated from the other continents. I wouldn’t rule out previous pre-industrial civilisations, though. In fact, given the wide variety of species today which demonstrate at least some tool use - not just great apes but also capuchin monkeys, corvids, even octopuses - I’d be surprised if no previous species ever got to at least homo erectus level.

2CellBioGuy2y
My brain goes interesting places from here. Would there be wild descendants of the soybean all over the world if we disappeared, can the domesticates go wild without us? The PETM was associated with a mixup of plant and animal ranges, but it is generally explained as being the result of the 5+ degree C temperature spike shifting all their ranges poleward and this then allowing them to wind up at different longitudes when they shifted back towards the equator, plus the general chaos of a minor extinction churning the ecosystems. If we go with the least likely part of the scenario mentioned above (antarctic habitat), Antarctica and South America and Australia all were faunally related after the breakup of Gondwana...
3Dumbledore's Army2y
Maybe the crop plants weren’t the best example to use. If we all disappeared tomorrow, there would still be rats and dingos and feral hogs in Australia. There would be rats on almost every island worldwide. There would be Japanese knotweed and buddleja and rhododendrons everywhere. There would be bougainvillea across all the tropics. There would be American crayfish and Pacific oysters in Britain. There would be Asian carp in North America. There might be hippopotamuses in South America! [https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/160510-pablo-escobar-hippos-colombia] Ie it’s not just domesticates, it’s the far larger number of wild species we’ve moved around (probably thousands or more - I couldn’t find an estimate with a quick google search) If any comparable thing had happened in the past, palaeobiology and genetic taxonomy should be a godawful mess instead of dovetailing nicely with the geological evidence on continental drift. Now maybe I’m just ignorant, and evolutionary biologists are going round scratching their heads and wondering how ancestral koalas suddenly showed up on Madagascar 55 million years ago, or some equivalent mystery. But I’m not aware of any such problem. Maybe the Antarctic habitat explains that, but I have trouble squaring the idea of a civilisation large-scale enough to cause runaway global warming with one that leaves no trace 55 million years later. The world would be a more interesting place if there was a previous industrial civilisation. I just don’t think there is evidence to support that proposition, and even 55 million years later, there should be some traces. But if someone digs up fossil plastics in Antarctica or something, I will be delighted to be proven wrong.

Ok, that does sound wierd. Do I understand correctly, that you postulate a PETM civilization that had developed sufficient technology to extract fossil fuels (as source of negative D13 carbon) to explain the observed carbon and climate? What population and per capita energy extraction rates did you factor? And if they let no trace, presumably they somehow found all this FF very close to Antarctica? If so, I think I would struggle to assign even 0.1% weight to this hypothesis compared to competing hypotheses. It has the feel of an invisible dragon in the garage to me.

3CellBioGuy2y
I propose very few details and a low probability (and as I add more details from 'someone burned a lot of carbon' I give even less), and the scenario outlines above total carbon release could be split between an artificial release and later positive feedbacks (seafloor clatherate and the like). As for no trace, finding bedding planes within the PETM itself is a celebrated event in many places and trying to hit a bedding plane within a short period is hard, and I would need to look into the work of a scientist I really like about erosion rates across continental crust to see what the odds of a carbon deposit near the surface now being near the surface millions of years ago would be...
Well Australia is right beside Antarctica at that time. Its coal deposits are Permian/Jurassic and the continent has hardly changed geologically. Would seem like an obvious place to mine. A civilization mining and burning coal on large enough scale to impact climate is also going to have to manage quick a bit of other tech (esp metallurgy) as well, with the evidence also conveniently hidden. So from Baysian perspective we have quite a number of competing hypotheses for PETM founded on evidence but hard to constrain as to relative effect. The "ancient civilization" hypothesis has no evidence supporting it that I can see. I would of course shift my beliefs rapidly if evidence of past civilization appeared. Calculating sedimentary flux (proxy for erosion rate) through time is routine input into basin modelling. I would guess data exists for practically all sedimentary basins with any potential for hydrocarbons. (And paleogene flux from Australia is really low). Can you be more specific about what carbon deposit you are talking about. (Erosion rates are also estimated from fission-track dating and similar techniques but this is really only relevent to high erosion rate features ie mountain chains). I should say that I am deep in accumulating this kind of data for whole of NZ as it is input into models for surface heat flow that I am helping out with.
Should add that constraints on d13C of source for PETM are getting better. eg https://www.pnas.org/content/117/39/24088 [https://www.pnas.org/content/117/39/24088] - favouring volcanic (-6) rather than coal (-25) or gas (-60).

Thinking about this some more, if there was an industrial civilisation at the PETM I think it would be most likely marine based. (Maybe cephalopods?)

I previously asked myself what evidence we would see if there was a prior industrial civilisation on Earth and I came up with 1) transfer of biological species to other continents as per my previous comments 2) depletion of fossil fuels (I don't remotely know enough geology to begin to answer the question of whether we are 'missing' fossil fuels that ought to be there) and 3) technofossils especially plastics....

Amazing. This is the best thing I've read all week. How do I subscribe to your newsletter? When is the novelization coming out?

6CellBioGuy2y
I should start up that astrobiology and evolutionary biology blog again shouldn't I...

Good post.

The sad thing is that if we mess it up, there is not enough time before the sun renders multicellular life untenable on earth to restore fossil fuels. So for earth we are the last roll of the dice.

Someone has actually written up a scientific paper discussing the hypothesis that the PETM or other events in the geologic record was caused by a prior industrial civilisation. (If you're one of the authors, I apologise for telling you something you already know, but if you're not, I thought you might be interested.) The short version is that there's no smoking gun, but they can't rule it out either.

One item the authors don't go into, which I think is relevant, is the question of whether there are missing fossil fuels. Google tells me that pretty muc...

That is weird.

supposedlyfun

### Apr 15, 2021

22

Jeffrey Epstein didn't commit suicide. Two cameras malfunctioned, the normal procedures weren't followed, and it's silly to think he didn't have compromising information on important people. And it was an incredibly high-profile prisoner.

"Attorney General William Barr described Epstein's death as 'a perfect storm of screw-ups'." Yet several guards were indicted on charges of conspiracy and record falsification.

This belief is so obvious to me that I felt like I was being gaslighted by news outlets and even academics who later called the belief a conspiracy theory in the same class as QAnon and UFOs, including a guest on a FiveThirtyEight podcast about conspiracy theories (I'm a huge FiveThirtyEight fan; they laid the groundwork for me to appreciate this community, which in turn mostly increased my appreciation for FiveThirtyEight).

A majority of Americans seem to agree with me, although who knows why, so maybe it's not a "weird" belief except when compared against the mass media/"elite" narrative.

You could de-convince me with statistics about how often those and similar cameras malfunctioned and how often guards disregarded normal procedures with other prisoners, low profile and high profile.

I had some exposure to this issue a couple of years ago. I got a speeding ticket, which eventually I got off of.

During this process I documented the government making 26 different errors in all. Starting with the speed limit sign that did not comply with their own standards for speed limit signs in 3 different ways....

So I suspect that huge numbers of things go wrong in government all the time and are not noticed. What % of prisoners get checked as required? What fraction of video cameras are out of order at any given time? So the argument "Aha! The camera just 'happened' to be out of order!" is not as compelling to me as you might expect.

Tho' it would not be surprising that JE was taken out. He seems to have operated a blackmail operation in part and no doubt a few people breathed a sigh of relief on hearing of his fate. But I don't know.

Add on the probability of "intentionally allowed to commit suicide" on top of that and the total odds seemingly become high indeed.

I would give it maybe 40%, because on one hand it was very convenient for many people... and because similar situations certainly happened in the past, I would assume there would be processes designed to prevent such accidents... and if it happened regardless... On the other hand, people are generally incompetent, so you should expect them to screw up.

(Knowing more about what is "normal" in prisons could make me change the estimate.)

so maybe it's not a "weird" belief except when compared against the mass media/"elite" narrative.

Yup, there can be a huge dif...

ike

### Apr 14, 2021

12

External reality is not a meaningful concept, some form of verificationism is valid. I argued for it in various ways previously on LW, one plausible way to get there is through a multiverse argument.

Verificationism w.r.t level 3 multiverse - "there's no fact of the matter where the electron is before it's observed, it's in both places and you have self locating uncertainty."

Verificationism w.r.t. level 4 multiverse - "there's no fact of the matter as to anything, as long as it's true in some subsets of the multiverse and false in others, you just have self locating uncertainty."

Lots of people seem to accept the first but not the second.

there’s no fact of the matter where the electron is before it’s observed, it’s in both places and you have self locating uncertainty.”

OTOH, realism isn't defined as every observable having a simultaneous sharp value.

2ike2y
What form of realism is consistent with my statement about level 4?
6TAG2y
That there is an external world. Which, in this case, happens to be a multiverse. You seem to be taking an epistemology-flavoured approach, where realism depends on having a set of facts, rather than a set of things. But even at that, it's not clear that multiverses imply a lack of facts. If there is a duplicate me somewhere that didn't just type that sentence, that doesn't indicate an lack of clarity about what I did , any more than if I had a twin who didn't just type that sentence.
2ike2y
I'm tentatively ok with claims of the sort that a multiverse exists, although I suspect that too can be dissolved. Note that in your example, the relevant subset of the multiverse is all the people who are deluding themselves into thinking they typed that sentence. If there's no meaningful sense in which you're self located as someone else vs that subset, then there's no meaningful sense in which you "actually" typed it.
1TAG2y
If my supposed counterparts are identical in every way, then there is no confusion about whether they write thc sentence. If they didn't write the sentence, then they are not identical to me and don't have to accept that they are me. You don't just need multiverse theory to be true , you need strong claims about transworld identity to be true.
2ike2y
>If they didn't write the sentence, then they are not identical to me and don't have to accept that they are me. Sure, some of those people are not identical to some other people. But how do you know which subset you belong to? A version of you that deluded themselves into thinking they wrote the sentence is subjectively indistinguishable from any other member of the set. You can only get probabilistic knowledge against, i.e. "most of the people in my position are not deluding themselves", which lets you make probabilistic predictions. But saying "X is true" and grounding that as "X is probable" doesn't seem to work. What does "X is true" mean here, when there's a chance it's not true for you?
1TAG2y
Suppose there is no personal identity at all. Then there are still objective facts about what some bunch of atoms somewhere is doing.
2ike2y
Perhaps. It's not clear to me how such facts could exist, or what claims about them mean. If you've got self locating uncertainty, though, you can't have objective facts about what atoms near you are doing.
1TAG2y
The existence of a set of facts is implied by the existence of a world or worlds. You are supposing be existence of a multiverse, not me. I can have good-enough knowledge of what atoms near me are doing, because otherwise science wouldn't work. Of course, that's only subjective, but you are the one supposing the existence of a large objective world.
2ike2y
I granted your supposition of such things existing. I myself don't believe any objective external reality exists, as I don't think those are meaningful concepts.
1TAG2y
They're in the dictionary.

Verificationismism in the sense of the logical positivists is a theory of meaning. According to this theory, kowing the meaning of a statement p would amount to knowing the conditions under which it would be true and under which it would be false. (To give it a Bayesian slant, I like to widen this as "knowing what would be evidence for/against p). Is it this what you have in mind?

Verificationismism in this sense was used against postulating transcendent entities or state of affairs. Something is transcendent if it is beyond every possible experience. There...

4ike2y
Anti-realism is not quite correct here, it's more that claims about external reality are meaningless as opposed to false. I'm not making a claim about what people actually mean by the words they say. I'm saying that some interpretations of what people say happen to lack meaning. I agree that many people fervently believe in some form of external reality, I simply think that belief is meaningless, in the same way that a belief about where the electron "truly is" is meaningless.
2Lukas_Gloor2y
This is semantics but I'd say what you're describing fits the label "anti-realism" perfectly well. I wrote a post on Why Realists and Anti-Realists [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/6nPnqXCaYsmXCtjTk/moral-anti-realism-sequence-2-why-realists-and-anti-realists] disagree. (It also mentions existence anti-realism briefly at the end.)
1TAG2y
From my POV , you are external reality.

### Apr 14, 2021

11

That governments should, over the long term, run balanced budgets. ie there are many good reasons for a short term budget deficit (global crisis, natural disaster) but governments should budget to return to government surplus as soon as possible and pay down debt (eg to something like 20% GDP).
This obviously doesnt seem weird to me, but people from MMT theorists to heads of world major economies think it is.
Why do I believe that? Well we (New Zealand) had major reforms of economy and government in 1980-90s. At time, (showing my age) I thought it is was madness and seriously, morally bad. However, once the pragmatists replaced the ideologues, it now seems to me that the residuals of the reforms (including the balanced budget requirement) has delivered a strong and resilient economy. Various crises have been managed well because the government has been in a strong fiscal position to start with.

Have I really examined or tested this belief? Nope. I find many things more interesting than economics and whether the belief is right or wrong doesnt impact on anything I do, including voting. The policy has cross-party support so unless I vote for a fringe party, then I am voting for this anyway.

Which I guess is why we have Fiscal Responsibility Act to enforce it on politiicians. However, running large government surplusses seem to be regarded as fine (ie consequence free) by pollies of many nations, provided you can pay the interest. If they are correct, then my belief is indeed weird (and incorrect). The MMT argument made my head hurt.
4Viliam2y
Even if many countries are in insane debt and function okay... it is not obvious to me how to distinguish between "it's because debt doesn't actually harm you" and "it's because they are strong enough to survive the debt, but still would be better without it". In my personal life, there were only three situations when I got into debt. Twice it was mortgage, which I considered rational because the prices of apartments were increasing, so if I tried to save the full amount of money, it would be "the longer I save, the more money is still missing". (Since then, the property costs of both apartments have doubled, so this policy still seems okay in hindsight.) The third time, I caused a property damage that needed to be fixed immediately, and I was insured but the insurance company took its sweet time (one year) to actually pay, so I took a small debt to bridge that period, but then I was extra frugal to pay it back as soon as possible. Generally, whenever I was in debt, I took care to pay it back as soon as possible. Now I imagine that someone with large income, or even income at my level, could e.g. spend 30% of that income paying credit card debt, and still live a happy life. Hey, I save about 30% of my salary, so that person would in short term have exactly the same quality of life as me. It just seems extremely stupid to me, in long term. But if all neighbors did that, it would be "normal". So my question is, essentially, whether the countries with huge-but-survivable debt are more analogical to "me taking mortgage" or "the high-income guy with 30% credit card debt". From outside, both seem similar: owing some money, living good life. The difference is in the counterfactuals: the alt-me that didn't take the mortgage now spends more money on rent than I spend on home ownership + mortgage payment combined; while the alt-credit-card-guy that didn't maximize credit now saves 30% of his salary and can maybe retire a bit sooner. The state-level equivalent of mortgage
3alexgieg2y
One way to look at this is in focusing on what purpose money serves. Suppose you do something for someone, and that person pays you a $1 bill. What does it mean, to have that$1 bill in your hands? After all, concretely speaking, it doesn't serve for much. It's a small piece of generic printed paper, so you can use it for same general purpose any piece of paper with something printed on it serves. However, it has attached to a formal "possibility of" a future something, as you can eventually exchange it for something else, be it a good or a service. Hence, at its core that $1 bill is a contract, or more specifically, a promise. Hence, when you do something and receive$1, you're exchanging that work for a promise. And, conversely, someone else is promising you a future reward in exchange for you doing something now. And, evidently, such promises themselves can be exchanged, such as when one exchanges one country's currency for another's. Notice then that debt, in aggregate, works in a very similar way. When a credit agencies you owe money to negotiates that debt of yours with another, they're exchanging promises between themselves, tied to something eventually happening, namely, you providing them many $1 promise bills in exchange for a return of the big promise letter with your signature one of them is carrying. And thus, similarly, at higher layers, until the much higher one of debts hold by countries, which also are exchanged around. Hence, at that very high level the movement of debts around is a form of money. Rather than moving around packs of first-order promises, aka, stored currency, they move around wide blocks of second or third-order promises, tied to their whole countries doing this or that in the negotiated time frame. This is why holding countries to having a positive cash flow doesn't make much sense. I mean, it does make some sense, in that handing out blocks of "small promises" simplifies many things. But it also makes other movements more co 3Viliam2y The "fun" part of our financial system is the usury -- the idea that if I do something for you today, once, and then wait for a sufficiently long time, it afterwards makes you obligated to keep doing things for me effectively forever (if I only ask you to pay back the interest, not the principal). Why is it considered a smart idea to be the one who needs to pay back the favors forever, instead of the one who collects the favors forever? If you were an immortal vampire, would you prefer to be one who keeps paying 30% of his salary as a credit card debt, for eternity, or the one who is early retired? The official theory is that the debt allows you to finance smart things that make you so much better off that having to return favors forever is definitely worth it. Instead, I suspect than most of the money is typically wasted or stolen, and does not make a difference in long term... except for the debt that the next generations inherit. 1Phil Scadden2y I wouldnt pretend NZ is fiscal utopia by a long way, but actually pretty weak provisions have resulted in quite strong fiscal discipline. https://econpapers.repec.org/paper/risnzierw/2018_5f001.htm [https://econpapers.repec.org/paper/risnzierw/2018_5f001.htm] for a review. Governments may have to act faster than a referendum can be organized but so long as there is then a realistic plan to return to a budget surplus, I dont think you need one. But your comments have reinforced my view that my beliefs are not weird. 1Aaro Salosensaari2y I agree with Phil that this sounds very ... counterintuitive. Usually nothing is free, and even with free things there is consequences or some sort of externality. However, I recently read an argument by a Finnish finance podcaster, who argued while the intuition might be true and government debt system probably is not sustainable and is going to have some kind of messup in long term, not participating may put your country at disadvantage compared to countries who take the "free" money and invest it, and thus have more assets when it all falls down. 2Stuart Anderson2y - nroman ### Apr 15, 2021 9 I think a large number of people would benefit from temporarily adopting a mystic/magical religion. Tantra comes to mind first owing to David Chapman's writing, but Wicca, alchemy, Kabbalah and ritual magic are included as well. These are systems utterly at odds with normal and socially acceptable modes of living. Ideally, these could serve as shocks to break people out of major ruts in thinking or belief, or as outlets for resolving emotional hangups and releasing socially unacceptable desires. I also know a good few people who, if nothing else, could really use an injection of weirdness and wonder to break them out of self-imposed boredom. The exact system matters less than the presence of a system at all. The key is not to get too caught up in them or start believing they're real. So long as they maintain a playful aspect, you're probably fine. You also want to avoid getting into cults, especially Scientology. They're also weird, and they're also systems of meaning-making, but they take themselves too seriously and in the latter case it's difficult and potentially harmful to leave. Distinguishing cults from playful religions may be much more difficult than I'm giving credit for. Keep an exit strategy on hand and don't give out your credit card information. One of my own weird beliefs is very close to this one: Huge amounts of everything accepted by modern western medicine and psychology today was used by people in some way before being "scientifically" explained. Whether we're talking about using compounds from particular plants to treat particular ailments, or using particular psychological tricks to alter peoples' thoughts and behavior, science is literally eating magic's lunch because "magic" is often where science looks to get ideas for hypotheses to test. Because of this history, and the history of scien... Leafcraft ### Apr 14, 2021 7 Not sure if it counts as a "weird belief" but I am an anarchist for relatively "usual" reasons. I believe Plants, Fungi and even inanimate objects experience consciousness (to some extent). Consciousness is, probably, an intrinsic property of matter and it exists throughout the physical universe in some form. I believe there is a nontrivial chance that plants experience consciouness. Like maybe 20% or so? I haven't thought about it carefully, and it would require a more operationalized definition of consciousness to assign a solid credence. I thought of this belief before reading the comments and was somewhat surprised to find another person espousing it. Zac Hatfield-Dodds ### Apr 14, 2021 7 Taking information hazards seriously. This can range from the benign (is it a good idea to post very weird beliefs here?) to the more worrying (plausible attacks on$insert_important_system_here), and upwards.

Does this include extreme examples, such as pieces of information that permanently damage your mind when exposed to, or antimemes?

Have you made any changes to your personal life because of this?

7Zac Hatfield-Dodds2y
Excellent question! I'm not personally concerned about what Bostrom called [https://www.nickbostrom.com/information-hazards.pdf] 'risks of irrationality and error' or 'risks to valuable states and activities'. There are costs of rationality [https://www.lesswrong.com/tag/costs-of-rationality] though, where knowing just a little can expose you to harms that you're not yet equipped to handle (classic examples: scope sensitivity, demandingness, death). This rounds to common sense - 'be sensitive about when/whether/how to discuss upsetting topics'. Mostly though, I'm inclined to keep quiet about data, idea, and attention hazards where my teenage self might have wanted to share interesting ideas like the antibiotic-gradient trick, at least without some benefit beyond having a fun discussion. Threat models for election security, yes - there's a clear public interest in everyone understanding the tradeoffs involved in paper vs electronic ballots, or remote vs polling-place voting. Ideas for asymmetric warfare [https://www.gwern.net/Terrorism-is-not-Effective], not so much.

At a more concrete level, I've spent the last ~14 months holding strong and unusual views on most pandemic-related matters, though I don't think any of them would raise eyebrows on LessWrong. A minority are probably now mainstream, the others - unfortunately - remain weird.

Stuart Anderson

### Apr 15, 2021

6

-

I sort of believe in something like this, except without the magical bits. It motivates me to vote in elections and follow the laws also when there is no effective enforcement. Maybe it is a consequence of reading Pratchett's Discworld novels when I was in impressionable age.

My mundane explanation (or rationalization) is a bit difficult to write, but I believe it is because of:

>It gets in people's minds.

When people believe something, it affects their behavior. Thus memetic phenomena can have real effects.

As an example I feel is related to this, I ...

4Stuart Anderson2y
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alexgieg

### Apr 14, 2021

6

I believe in "supernatural phenomena" due to many anecdotal experiences I personally had. I do acknowledge they may all be me incorrectly evaluating ordinary natural phenomena or mental processes due to psychological quirks of mine. Hence, I make a constant effort to no let them interfere in anything I'm dealing with that has clear scientific consensus and/or hard data, or in my ethical, social, and political standings, preferring to keep both sides well separated. In short, to use LW terminology, I willfully compartmentalize.

However, I do not believe in separate magisteria. I'm confident that eventually either the mechanisms behind those experiences I have had will be well known, solving the confusion in a definite way, or those phenomena will be consistently observed, studied, scientifically understood, incorporated into physics, and turned into useful technologies.

Funnily, I'd have preferred not to have had those experiences, as I really like transhumanism and its projected future possibilities, such as cryonics-based resurrection, cognitive reengineering, uploading, mind splitting/remerging/backing up/restoring, and others, all of which becomes from extremely unlikely to impossible if what I've experienced is real. As such I don't see these, all things considered, as a net positive.

I don’t follow the last bit. If ghosts were real, the first-order news would be amazing: maybe humanity wouldn’t have truly lost the brain-information of any human, ever!

3alexgieg2y
Yes, but that would (does?) also means a strict limit in how much cognitive abilities, including emotional amplitude, can be engineered. Neural engineering would has as its task improving a human body's brain up to that limit, but not beyond, as after a point it would be (is?) incompatible with "human souls". So, the first-order news would be good, in that 42 billion or so human souls would be intact (barring something able to kill souls). The second-order news, however, is that the trillions to quadrillions of human beings that will still come to exist will all be, well, basically this, just spread around. So, for me, if those quadrillions of future human beings could have been orders or magnitude more at the price of all human beings so far existing not having a continuity into that future, the utility thus gained would also be orders of magnitude higher.
7Slider2y
Sure current engineering wouldn't have any idea, but discovering a new subtrate that humans exist on has also the promise of engineering that subtrate. If we discover a new field effecting muon g-factor we don't mourn for physics having an upper limit we rejoice of inclusion of new exotic stuff.
3alexgieg2y
True, and I do think that'd be quite exciting. My point is that humanity not being able to develop the option of, e.g., reloading a backup of oneself, or several then merging the results into a new integrated self, would be limiting. I do enjoy science fiction dealing on those topics after all, from Friendship is Optimal all the way to Iain M. Bank's Culture series, passing through Star Trek's endless transporter accidents, I find the idea of "identity as data" quite appealing. Having it tied to some kind of substratum is comparatively a kinda meh proposition, even if said substratum were to be shown to have quite interesting properties in other respects.
3dlr2y
If human souls are generated by the human brain, which seems as likely as any other mechanism of creating them, then perhaps an upgraded brain will generate upgraded souls.

A significant set of possible models of such phenomena result in them being irreducibly personal and subjective, hampering detailed analysis.

Selection effects are computationally prohibitive to back out of data. If you have a very large combinatorial space and a sufficiently permissive filter one in a million things are happening constantly.

I investigated this by wielding it with intention as a teenager. I would choose something to notice and treat as meaningful, and then watch the rest of the system pattern match adjacent things a lot (synchronicity).

Dumbledore's Army

### Apr 14, 2021

6

I think that we should be taking the possibility of UFOs more seriously. Over the last year, I've updated from thinking that UFOs are laughable to thinking there's a 10-20% chance of actual alien visitation, and about another 10-20% of something else important going on. (Ie someone - presumably China - has either made a huge leap in drone technology or is getting good at spoofing multiple US military systems simultaneously.)

Why? Because a number of senior and generally sane people seem to be taking this seriously. The US military forces in particular are seeing a number of cases of unidentified phenomena - not just aerial, also submarine - where they see things that look like craft that have capabilities not currently possible with modern technology. Some of these things like the 2004 USS Nimitz incident have been captured on multiple systems like the ship's radar, and aircraft cameras and visually spotted by the pilots. The former Direction of National Intelligence has said recently that there are a lot more sightings which haven't been made public.

Yes, I know there are still other explanations, and the track record suggests sightings will turn out to be some kind of optical illusion or something, but I'm open to the possibility that not every incident is explicable in terrestrial terms.

The link below is a good long-form read which argues that the US Department of Defence is taking the possibility seriously.

How is that different than say the CIA taking ESP seriously, MKULTRA etc?

4Dumbledore's Army2y
I would say the UFO thing is different because the defence people are reporting physical phenomena which they can’t explain. So far as I know, the CIA didn’t have evidence that ESP worked and subsequently decide to investigate it, rather someone persuaded them to spend some money looking for evidence (which they didn’t find). The UFO reports give the impression that the DoD didn’t want to take them seriously but they got smacked in the face by enough evidence that they didn’t have much choice. Again, I’m not saying it’s definitely something weird. But if there’s a one-third chance the UFO reports are from something interesting, isn’t it worth investigating? Remember that aliens are only one of the interesting possibilities. The other ones are that China/Russia/someone has either made a big leap ahead in technology; or has figured out how to spoof multiple US military systems and is testing their abilities by generating UFO sightings. Or the third option, something we haven’t even thought of.

avturchin

### May 03, 2021

3

Doomsday argument and quantum immortality are both true, and it means that I will be the only survivor of a global catastrophe. Moreover, it will be in a simulation.

Both DA and QI could be tested in other fields. DA was tested to predict other things besides the end of the world by Gott. QI is anthropic principle applied to the future.
Aranyosi claimed that DA and Simulation argument cancel each other, but actually they support each other: I live (or will live because of QI) in a simulation which simulates a doomsday event with one survivor.

That's certainly a weird combination, but I doubt it's the right way to combine those ingredients...

Dagon

### Apr 14, 2021

3

None of my beliefs feel weird to me - I find it weird that many/most people seem to believe different things.

For this site, I'll go with radical anti-realism.  All value is personal and relative - there is no objective view or measure about moral decisions.  Crowley had it right (on this point; he was wackadoo on others) "Do what thou wilt, and then do nothing else".

There is an objective measure, but it's content free. In the 1960's psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg noticed any moral opinion, irrespective of the direction it went (for or against something), always fits into one of six different patterns, one more cognitively complex than the other, all of them organized into a hierarchical sequence individuals pass through in order as their cognitive abilities develop, which he called stages of moral development. This theory of his was then determined to be psychometrically sound, and to provide reproducible results.

Fiel...

[+][comment deleted]2y 1

Teerth Aloke

### Apr 14, 2021

1

It cannot be stated with >99% certainty that members of the Bush Administration did not have definite prior information of the events of 9/11 or played a role in it.

Untangling the multiple negatives, this says that there is at most a 1% chance that the administration had foreknowledge or involvement. Is that what you intended?

2Teerth Aloke2y
No. Actually I meant to say that there is atleast 1% chance of foreknowledge or involvement.
4ChristianKl2y
What's your actual credence of it being true?
1Teerth Aloke2y
~1/3
2NormanPerlmutter2y
I think Teerth's second statement is mathematically equivalent to their original statement (modulo strict versus non-strict inequality), and Richard's untangling is incorrect. Let A be the proposition that members of the Bush Administration had definite prior information of the events of 9/11 or played a role in it. Let P(X) denote the credence in a proposition X. The original statement was as follows: It is false that P(¬A) > 99%. Equivalently, P(¬A)≤99% Equivalently, P(A) > 1%. Almost equivalently, "there is at least a 1% chance of foreknowledge or involvement"