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Velocity Raptor: a simple physics Flash game where the physics simulates special relativity. Lorenz contraction, time dilation, red shifts, visual distortions ... people seem to get stuck on level 30, though Gwern made it to level 31. It's one thing to look at equations, it's another to get a feel for it. I strongly recommend this to everyone.

That sounds, like, offensively speciest towards Gwern! Or something.

Technically, we don't have incontrovertible proof that Gwern isn't a mostly-friendly AI that consumes a lot of anime.

My exact thought. Very few baseline humans are such... data whores.
Gwern is obviously a P-zombie. Just try looking at his pineal gland and you'll find no soul.
He also has a particle physics one: Agent Higgs [http://www.testtubegames.com/higgsflash.html].
Frankly, Agent Higgs shows way less than Velocity Raptor - neutrinos pass through matter, particle-antiparticle, what else? Velocity Raptor has even fully-relevant puzzles with colour keys...
I would say that the level 30 is hard as the plain arcade, special relativity is not that relevant. If only the game allowed you to save midlevel, many more people would pass level 30. Level 31 is easier because one of the arcade-hard tricks is removed. ETA: Looks like level 34 is impassable without true arcade skills... It is the first level where you have both periodical obstacle and time limit
You need time dilation to get across the water trap doors, so it's relevant in that sense. Mind you, I wouldn't have made it to level 30 without the space bar and the dead stop whenever you hit an obstacle. Dump all your momentum from relativistic speeds for free!
Well, actually it doesn't truly matter, as you just need to have enough speed anyway. The fact that two parts of the trap always look simultaneous is funny, of course.
Yeah. This level is killing me. ETA: Level 38 is... far far worse. No timing, except in the precision of movements in the final stretch.
Holy shit... after playing that for a while, whenever I quickly move my eyes the page I'm reading appears to stretch along the direction of the saccade and shrink along the perpendicular direction.
This was tons of fun. Doing the wildcard levels in seen view was crazy! I wish it had general relativity too. Edit: also, for people wondering about the seen view, the episode of the cosmos called Journeys in Space and Time has a really awesome scene about what it would actually look like to move a significant fraction of the speed of light. Does anyone know of any (possibly more modern) other attempts to do this? It's about 20 mins in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abp3q7aYOss [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abp3q7aYOss]

Hi all, I'm Andy, the guy who made the game. I stumbled across this posting and am glad people are both enjoying the game and thoroughly infuriated by it :)

I had that scene in Cosmos vividly in mind as I created VR. It's amazing how well that series stands up to the test of time.

Another neat resource for that 'seen' view is http://www.spacetimetravel.org

They have a bunch of videos and explanations, too. In fact, the big inspiration for this game came from an exhibit that group built. It was in a museum years ago, and you'd physically ride a stationary bike around their simulation. A giant screen in front of you showed what you'd see as you rode through the streets of Bern (supposing light was traveling at 5 mph). It was completely interactive, and completely rad.

I've got other links posted if you're interested in more, but that's the one that sticks out to me.

Well you managed to entertain a lab full of astrophysicists and me for longer than I care to admit, so that was awesome ty.

It would be neat in a game to have objects/stuff that emits light outside of visible light that can only be seen by humans when they're doppler shifted into visible range.

I quite like that idea. Make the objects invisible (instead of black, as they are now). That could lead to some nice puzzles. I'll keep that in mind for the future, thanks!
I can't wait for the first time a student goes into Phys 200 and passes easily because quote "It's just like the time I was an ice skating raptor, dodging bullets while on fire and doppler-shifting doors open" unquote. My only wish is that you add a little more to the congratulation screen for master of relativity. Even just a picture of the same raptor with a party hat on top would be awesome. You know, just to show that the poor raptor is doing okay after running into so many walls at a significant fraction of C.
Ooh, a party hat, I like it! Yeah, I agree the player could use a little more positive feedback.
Wow. Hats off to you. This game is exactly the kind of thing I've been dreaming of [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dhn/rationality_games_apps_brainstorming/6zza].
You and me both. (And by that you mean literal dreams of being a velociraptor, right?)
If you change the game, please, please add possibility to save progress inside level. It would make the arcade-hard SR-easy levels somewhat more feasible. I gave up when I was offerred to do the fire-snow-run among timed trapdoors.
I'll keep that in mind. While I (clearly) don't want the game to be easy... I also don't want it to be too unreasonably hard.
Well done. I can't tell though if what we're seeing is perceived view what happened n ticks 'ago', where n is the distance we were from the trap n ticks ago in our current speed or at the previous speed. General relativity would have it as the former, but it seems like everything catches up instantly when you stop, rather than the area of altered perception spreading when you stop spreading outward at the local speed of light.
Have you considered doing Galilean relativity? I don't think it would make much difference.
In a Newtonian world? No way you could make a game like that. It'd hurt people's eyes! ;)
It has general relativity for the effect of acceleration, doesn't it?
Nah, general relativity is specifically about gravity. In this game, acceleration is treated just like you're changing reference frames really quicklike. The twin paradox [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_paradox] can be thought of that way, although Einstein did it with gravity too.
Was fun. Difficulty falls off after level 34, so keep trying :) I wish that at level 35+ the color of the background tiles doppler shifted. Thus if you were going too fast you wouldn't be able to see >:D
A diabolical player after my own heart! In a moment of rare compassion for the player, I minimized the colors the shifted. I didn't want to be held responsible for people getting sick all over their keyboards. :)

Robot cars may already be better drivers than humans. And if not, they're clearly on their way to become so.

Driving is an area of life where millions of "ordinary" humans (non-specialists) make life-critical and therefore morally-significant judgments every day. When we drive, we are taking our lives and those of others in our hands. Many of us would wish to be better drivers than we are: not only more skilled, but better in ways that could be described as "virtue": less prone to road rage, negligence, driving while impaired, and other faults. Robots don't get angry, they don't get distracted, and they don't get drunk or tired. Since bad driving kills people, we can reasonably say that robot driving is (or can become) morally superior to human driving — in a plain consequentialist sense.

This seems like a natural analogy for CEV in superhuman systems. We do not want a robot driver to drive just like a human. We want a robot driver to drive as a human would drive if that human were faster-thinking, calmer, clearer-minded, more focused; had sharper eyes, better knowledge of the roads and hazards, better ability to cooperate with other drivers. We want a robot to op... (read more)

It's a very good example. It also illustrates how hard is to specify a useful utility function for an AGI: "get me to my destination and don't kill anyone or cause any damage on the way" can lead to a number of non-obvious unintended consequences, compared to the CEV version "drive as a human would drive if that human were faster-thinking, calmer, clearer-minded, more focused; had sharper eyes, better knowledge of the roads and hazards, better ability to cooperate with other drivers".
None of this is news to me, but it's certainly nice to see the link being made between AI Driving and ethics in a positive light. Most people only jump to the part about "If an AI car kills someone, whose life do we ruin as vengeful punishment?" Thanks.

Suspended Animation the first blog post in a series on Urban Future that I am currently reading. Stagnation in our time:

What seems pretty clear from most of this (and already in Cowen's account) is that nothing much has been moving forward in the world's 'developed' economies for four decades except for the information technology revolution and its Moore's Law dynamics. Abstract out the microprocessor, and even the most determinedly optimistic vision of recent trends is gutted to the point of expiration. Without computers, there's nothing happening, or at least nothing good.

I have a notion that things are still moving forward in IT because it's still something of a frontier. It's relatively possible to do good work and get paid for it without formal credentials, or at least we're not very far from the time when that was possible.

PSA: If you want there to be a new Stupid Questions Open Thread, make it yourself! There is not and never has been a rule against this. I consider the "how often to make them" question unanswered, but a good interim answer is, "whenever someone feels like making one".

(Also, my computer broke, and so I posted this from a Wii, which is incapable of using the article editor. If someone could kindly edit "the sentence" into the post.)

Something is hinky with the upvote and downvote buttons (for me at least). When I press one nothing happens. Repeated pressing doesn't seem to do anything, but then sometimes the button colours-in after a delay. Sometimes it doesn't look like I pressed the button and then when I refresh the page I see that the button is coloured and the vote did register. Anyone else have the same problem?

Previously, the interface responded immediately, but the vote wasn't immediately applied (if you reopened the same post/comment, you wouldn't see your vote for a while). Sometimes, a vote would be lost, never applied, even though it was reflected in the interface. It looks like now the interface waits for the vote to actually get received, and only updates once it has been. As before, it takes a while for that to happen, and sometimes it doesn't happen at all, but the difference is that now this effect is apparent.

If this delay can't be easily fixed, an animation indicating that the operation is in progress (like one appearing when sending a comment) might help with the interface responsiveness issue.

I suppose that that's actually better, but is definitely better again. Otherwise I'm tempted to mash the voting button until something happens. It doesn't have to be an "animation" it could just be a still image of something that means "waiting" like a clock or a sandtimer.
I have noticed something similar. The length of the delay appears to be correlated with the speed of my internet, so I think that what's happening is that when you click on the 'hand' your browser sends a signal to the LW servers telling it what you did, and then waits for confirmation that the comment has been upvoted before coloring the 'hand'.
Same here. FF14 for Linux.
Same here.
Yeah, been having this problem for a while, but haven't cared enough to report it. Stable Chrome on Fedora.
How long is the delay? On the order of seconds, or 10s of seconds, or minutes?
I sometimes also see a delay of that order between clicking and the hand being coloured. (I assume it has to communicate with the LW web server and then receive a message back, before the vote can be acknowledged/displayed.) I haven't ever had it not responding at all though.
Well the times I think that it's not responding at all might just be times where the delay is so long I got bored of waiting. But if so those times are certainly more than 10 seconds, which is much slower than I'm used to. Next time it looks like nothing has happened I'll wait for a few minutes.

LSD-Enhanced Creativity (HT: Isegoria)

Over the course of the preceding year, IFAS researchers had dosed a total of 22 other men for the creativity study, including a theoretical mathematician, an electronics engineer, a furniture designer, and a commercial artist. By including only those whose jobs involved the hard sciences (the lack of a single female participant says much about mid-century career options for women), they sought to examine the effects of LSD on both visionary and analytical thinking. Such a group offered an additional bonus: Anything they produced during the study would be subsequently scrutinized by departmental chairs, zoning boards, review panels, corporate clients, and the like, thus providing a real-world, unbiased yardstick for their results.

In surveys administered shortly after their LSD-enhanced creativity sessions, the study volunteers, some of the best and brightest in their fields, sounded like tripped-out neopagans at a backwoods gathering. Their minds, they said, had blossomed and contracted with the universe. They’d beheld irregular but clean geometrical patterns glistening into infinity, felt a rightness before solutions manifested, and even sha

... (read more)
I have finally posted my self-experiment on LSD microdosing: http://www.gwern.net/LSD%20microdosing [http://www.gwern.net/LSD%20microdosing]
Thank you!
Thank you for running proper experiments.
Also of interest: Mathematics and the Psychedelic Revolution [http://www.maps.org/news-letters/v18n1/v18n1-MAPS_8-10.pdf] The article doesn't cite the column or the date. Can anyone familiar with the US graphics computing culture in the 70s and early 80s weigh in on whether the claim is in any way plausible?
The current 1990s-ish base-rate for ever taking psychedelics is ~10% of the population; the richer and more educated, IIRC, correlate with more drug use; the article is implied to be ~1989 in the PDF, and everyone she talked to would be at least 20 years old, putting their birth back in the 1960s at a minimum. What the Dormouse Said documented quite a number of interconnections between computing and psychedelics and hippies, so a large fraction is not implausible. On the other hand, this reasoning sounds more consistent with, say, a third or a half, not 100% - 100% for both taking psychedelics and considering it important to one's work (and honestly saying so!) sounds implausibly high. My guess is some sort of sampling bias or maybe the journalist is overstating things; maybe word got around about her obsession with psychedelics and all the acidheads made a point of talking to her? We'll never know.
The wording in the anecdote is also a bit vague on whether the 180 professionals who answered yes actually were all the people she interviewed.

Thinking about Eliezer's post about Doublethink Speaking of deliberate, conscious self-deception he opines: "Leaving the morality aside, I doubt such a lunatic dislocation in the mind could really happen."

This seems odd for a site devoted to the principle that most of the time, most human minds are very biased. Don't we have the brains of one species of apes that has evolved to be particularly sensitive to politics? Why wouldn't doublethink be the evolutionarily adaptive norm?

My intuition, based on my own private experience, is the opposite of Eliezer's -- I'd assume that most industrialized people practice some degree of doublethink routinely. I'd further suspect that this talent can be cultivated, and I'd think that (say) most North Koreans might be extremely skilled at deliberate self-deception, in a manner that would have been very familiar to George Orwell himself.

This seems like an empirical question. What's the evidence out there?

What Eliezer calls doublethink most closely fits what is called 'cognitive dissonance' in psychology, but the evidence shows that we seek to resolve that dissonance either by 'compartmentalization' or by, I assume, reflective equilibrium (is there a word in psychology for this?). I don't think we deliberately self-deceive (although, perhaps therapies like CBT seek to do this with memory reconsolidation).
Humans normally get away with their biases by not examining them closely, and when the biases are pointed out to them by denying that they, personally are biased. Willful ignorance and denial of reality seem to be two of the most common human mental traits.
"Salterism refuted: removing wheels from racial Idealist heads" [http://james-g.com/2012/07/salterism-refuted-removing-wheels-from-racial-idealist-heads/] struck me as amusingly Quirrellish — as opposed to Malfoyish. It does appear that almost all racialists are looking for excuses to hurt others ­— to justify defection and other loser moves in Prisoner's Dilemma, Chicken, and other payoff matrices — by inventing wrongs done to them either by members of other races; or by the existence, visibility, or prosperity of other races. This seems almost as if an imaginary foe [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dsu/zerosum_conversion_a_cute_trick_for_decision/] is running a "divide-and-conquer" strategy against humanity: running K-means clustering, reifying the clusters, and trying to convince members of one cluster that they can't trust and should defect against members of another cluster. We know well from the history of organizations and intelligence agencies — and from history in general! — that this sort of thing is a significant risk.
I found that post a fun and interesting one too, I think I'll probably be linking to it in the future when I see some unfortunate comments by otherwise intelligent people elsewhere online. Heh, yeah that's a good way to put it. This is just basic tribalism no? We should emphasise it is hardly unique to racialist sentiment, indeed it prevades a large fraction of the human experience. One can see it quite clearly whenn it comes to nationality, religion, language, philosophical positions, partisan affiliation, culture, taste (be it in sex, food, architecture,...) and even sports team fandom [http://lesswrong.com/lw/h2/blue_or_green_on_regulation/]. I do find this amusingly ironic however. I can easily imagine say a pro-Black racialist disparaging those who are promoting local tribes and nationalities as engaging in a divide and conquer strategy against the Black race. Clearly you sir are displaying speciest tendencies. ;)
Economic classes might be a more frequent example than "tribes and nationalities". Historically, there has also been the argument made by some on the Left — especially anarchists such as the IWW — that racism is capitalism running divide-and-conquer against the working class. "Who benefits when white workers and black workers can't organize together because of racial tensions between them? The bosses do!" "You might cooperate with a Pebblesorter on the Prisoner's Dilemma, but would you want your son to marry one?"
Right some racialist have also argued against class divisions. Most infamously the you-know-whos. I heard this argument not on race but on nationality attributed as a position held by some socialists in the aftermath of World War One. It was one of the basis of some quite elaborate explanation [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_hegemony] of cultural forces as tools of the ruling class. I find it somewhat amusing how right-wing Moldbuggianism (which is basically endorsed by James_G) is very similar to such notions just with a different idea of who the ruling class is. Looking at this from the leftist perspective though I find the Chomsky-ite argument on race and capitalism far more convincing: Can you imagine a racist Coca-Cola Company in a global economy? Thought I sometimes wonder if their commercials would be slightly less subtly disturbing [http://youtu.be/m1NeogMh1JI] then.
I think that cultural hegemony is a reasonable and far from overwrought explanation for many social phenomena... but racism isn't one of them. So I also think Chomsky's right on this. Lip service mostly. Nazi policies generally moved to the right since the break with Strasserism and the purge of the SA, and the "Proper"/"German"/"Volkish" social hierarchy espoused by propaganda was (for all its utopian or faux-medieval motifs) in practice directed at recreating the class structure of Bismarck's Prussia, which was viewed through rose-tinted glasses by many at the time. True, when the conservative aristocrats showed some resistance, they were chastised (and the July plot brought an anti-aristocratic pseudo-populist turn), but when they went along with the new regime, the Nazis helped secure their position. The non-Jewish industrial and financial elites got a pretty sweet deal at first, and enjoyed it before being dragged into a suicidal war.
Right, but one could use many of the same argument against post WW2 social democrats no? The quality of life of the German working class much improved in the 1930s. Again I wasn't arguing they did that much on their stated beliefs but I said they where an example of racialists arguing against class divisions. To give another example from Fascists rather than Natonal Socialists (I think there is a notable difference) listen to this speech [http://youtu.be/3NqG2lAojNQ] by Sir Oswald Mosley.
Rather common among nationalists in general, not just racial ones; see the use of "class warfare" rhetoric today. "Racism" means too many different things. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e3a/open_thread_august_1631_2012/77sz] A Coca-Cola company whose views of the market were clouded by racial prejudice would be at a competitive disadvantage. But one that participated in systems of racial privilege would not necessarily be. To cherry-pick a famous example from history — the Montgomery bus service of Rosa Parks fame was not owned by Southern race-haters, but by National City Lines, a front company for General Motors and Firestone Tire. It still participated in a system of racial privilege by enforcing segregated seating. Doing so was kind of an obvious business move for NCL, since segregated seating was required by Alabama law.
Right but regulatory capture means that most business would not only have a financial interest lobby against such laws to boost profits but also probably be quit effective at them. To give an example requiring a larger number of toilets because segregation was required by law in your factory was clearly a unwanted expense, especially for investors coming in from the outside.
It sounds like you're suggesting regulatory capture effects would have led NCL to eventually lobby against segregation laws in order to make more money by better serving black Alabamians. But isn't it at least as credible that regulatory capture would have led NCL to lobby for the maintenance of segregation to deter competition from upstarts offering desegregated service to those who wanted it? Regulatory capture usually offers to explain established businesses supporting regulation, or favoring forms of "deregulation" that end up entrenching them at the expense of new competition. So this might explain it if NCL had lobbied for anti-discrimination laws (thus forbidding whites-only competitors) but I don't see how it would predict supporting merely the removal of segregation laws. This line of thinking leads me to wonder how much predictive power the "regulatory capture" idea actually has ...
[Warning: more of my neurotic bullshit!] Having read that blog... frankly, given equal general intelligence and competence, I'd pick Quirrell over James_G any day. The former isn't hung up on any particular grand theory, seems to have charisma, a sense of humour and a dry aesthetic of his own. He's just plain cool. The latter clearly has an IQ through the roof and excels at formal reasoning, but is monomaniacal about his "rational" hedonic utilitarianism in the face of numerous dismal conclusions, seemingly can't appreciate the value and importance of "mere emotions" for most people... and the pictures of his "strong aesthetic sense" [http://james-g.com/2012/07/libertarian-immigration-fanatics/] make me question whether I'd want to exist in his world at all, no matter how many hedons he might provide to how many people. Seriously, ew. Give me neo-feudalism as originally proposed, or give me chaos and ruin, just not this squeaky clean brave new world! Absolute monarchy and unrestricted capitalism both seem like such trifling worries to me compared to the prospect of this [http://james-g.com/2012/07/libertarian-immigration-fanatics/picket-fence-house-2/] covering a living, breathing, diverse nation-state!
Even I find it mildly disturbing especially since it strikes as more or less the same "rational" hedonic utilitarianism that is the de facto norm on LessWrong.
His hedonic utilitarianism or my rant? If the former... then thank you yet again for seeing a method to my madness :)
His hedonic utilitarianism. Of course there is, we actually share many of the same misgivings about the smiley faced worlds that utilitarianism might build.
Besides this and the critique of "Salterism [http://james-g.com/2012/07/salterism-refuted-removing-wheels-from-racial-idealist-heads/]" fubarobfusco liked to I'd also recommend these posts [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ddv/open_thread_july_115_2012/6zso]. I'm really quite fascinated by his concept of the "eminent self" and wish he wrote an article about how this fits into metaethics and rationality on LessWrong.
There is such a thing as genetic groupings of humans. There is such a thing as groups recognized by a given society based on heritable physical markers that are treated differently and thus develop different cultures. The word "race" is already used to describe the second one. "You're the race cops think you are", and a police officer will classify the Bantu and the San as black and the Scot as white, not the Bantu and the Scot as haplogroup L3 and the San as L0. Why overload the word, if not to justify preexisting racism?
Actually the word race is about what part of your ancestry you identify with or society identifies you with. Obviously both culture and genetic diversity correlate strongly with ancestry. The word race was also used in a taxonomic sense in the early 20th century. Indeed racial classification is still used that way in say medicine though naturally euphemisms are gaining popularity. You really miss the point here so I suspect you didn't read the article. When you take a look at the entire genome of the person and look for clusters in thing space you find groupings that basically match old racial classifications. For all the number crunching gene analysis that went into it this map [http://press.princeton.edu/images/k4593.gif] does not much differ the map Lothrop Stoddard [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lothrop_Stoddard] would have presented when asked about the distribution of racial groups before the Age of Discovery. Clearly they are touching the same underlying reality. Sure looking at one or two genes a Scott might be more similar to a San than a Sardinian, but as you increase the number genes you are looking at, the similarity more and more matches to the first approximation what you'd guess from looking at faces. Creating two words for the basically the same cluster in thing space in order to diffuse "x-ism" will only makes the x-ists feel more clever than they are. This gives the ideologies they create a new source from which to pump warm fuzzies into believers and a hook with which to appeal to people who figure out it is the same cluster.
A good article. It's not extreme at all, though. Anyone who believes that sometimes abortion is the right choice has got to agree that abortion would have been the right choice for the author's mother.

Review of “America’s Retreat from Victory” by Joseph R. McCarthy

This excellent review makes me think this will be an interesting book to add to my reading list. Has anyone else read it? I probably should add this statement as a sort of disclaimer:

A rationalist has a hard time not reviewing history from that period and concluding that for all intents and purposes McCarthy was right about the extent of communist infiltration and may have indeed grossly underestimated and misunderstood the nature of intellectual sympathies for communism and how deeply roote

... (read more)
I agree almost entirely with this descripton, but the "reactionary" judgment's modus ponens is my modus tollens - that is, I judge that what McCarthy perceived as "communism" around him was an old and respectable Western tradition that did far more good than evil throughout history (according to my preferences). I do think that this so-called "communism" ("Universalism") was in some sense a miscarriage of mainline Western Christian civilization, and that the Enlightenment's abandonment of theism for clever is-to-ought rationalizations [http://lesswrong.com/lw/cqs/link_reason_the_god_that_fails_but_we_keep/6pkd] was a time bomb - but for all its sins, it essentially was Western culture in its logical 2000-year unfolding. I insist that Modernity ought to be redeemed [https://www.google.com/search?q=%22redemption+of+modernity%22], not denounced and buried. And I doubt that things could have turned out very differently, that the Chesterton's Fence of older values, notably mourned even by Orwell [http://lesswrong.com/lw/c4h/rationality_quotes_may_2012/6m4q], would have protected against all possible disasters in the face of technological change. I know, the "logical 2000-year unfolding" might sound very far-fetched, but I've read plenty of evidence for it - for starters, see Robert Nisbet's remarkable History of the Idea of Progress and Karen Armstrong's History of God. (Regarding modern history, I would further argue that the leftward radicalization effectively stopped in 1968, that the "60s' revolution" ended up a kind of counter-revolution in disguise - but that's a difficult subject for another day.) In particular, it seems to me that Soviet imperialism and Mao's radical reforms, for all their unnecessary evils and wilful stupidity, led to far more net human welfare [http://lesswrong.com/lw/jd/human_evil_and_muddled_thinking/f3f] - never mind the gain in more nebulous things like "Human development"! - than their actual, really present alternatives at the time: Ame
I agree with this, the traditionalists where not equipped for the technological change that took place. Of the various offshoots that tried to grapple with it Soviet Communism wasn't really that disastrous. It didn't result in a break down into the bleak dystopia of North Korea or the barbarism of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. I think it plausible that mild fascism (think Franco) in conjunction with monarchy would have worked better for Russia. I would be very interested in this take on recent history, please write up a email if you feel it wouldn't be productive to discuss it here. I'm not so sure. Right wing capitalist authoritarianism, the sort of outcome I think the Kuomintang could have provided has a good track record of development in East Asian states. I'm not suggesting China would have been a Tawian(! [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiwan#Economy]) or Singapore, it was too large and in the early years too chaotic for that. I do think they would have been far wealthier and I think it would probably be more democratic today than the PCR (not that I would necessarily approve of that). Though again a West allied China may have gone to war with the Soviet Union which would have been a disaster. Also check out the strong socialist elements [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuomintang#Early_years.2C_Sun_Yat-sen_era] in the original ideology and practice of the party. Had it gone in that direction again, I can't see them doing worse than Mao. It might be true that they could have lost grip of the country and see it descent into the hands of various warlords, which might have meant decades of trouble for China. The almost unified China under the PRC would obviously beat that out. To be fair though Mao's revolution was basically a Chinese peasants revolt installing a new dynasty in some Marxist drag. Hardly exceptional in Chinese history, the more surprising part was that Mao was dethroned with relatively little bloodshed. Moldbug makes the case that was mostly
Concerning Singapore and why the "traditionalist" conservatives and the atheist alt-right really ought to split on their attitude to it (as of now, they all seem to think that it's a nice clean place free of all that liberal insanity): You know how Lee Kwan Yew has occcasionally been complaining about the "crass materialism" around him in his latter interviews and such? The loss of nice, cozy traditional values? Well, I think that he hasn't fully comprehended what he has been ushering in, culturally speaking. Behold. [http://www.news.com.au/weird-true-freaky/lets-make-a-baby-mentos-takes-on-singapores-population-crisis/story-e6frflri-1226446839524] BEHOLD AND WEEP! [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jxU89x78ac] Right out of trashy dystopian sci-fi... hell, it totally reminds me of this [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDaOgu2CQtI] classic music video (at 3:10). And here [http://www.crisismagazine.com/2012/is-totalitarian-liberalism-a-mutant-form-of-christianity] some Catholic woman is trying to pin this shit on leftism. Can't she see that old good Universalist morality is her only surviving ally against such horrors? (Rhetorical question: I understand that the less insightful conservatives simply lump all formally irreligious societies together as The Other. But the brighter ones should see how this is much worse than leftist academia.) May God have mercy on our dirty little hearts. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJGQHCC62b0]
Mainstream Western Universalist morality has no objection to that video except that its tacky.
I don't believe this is so. Most any liberal professor type - hell, most lefties I know - would flip their shit around the phrase "manufacture life" or earlier. Maybe I'm too rosy-eyed, but I really can't see them remaining unperturbed. In theory, those lyrics manage to tick off just about every sacredness/profanity box of stereotypical liberal mentality. (I'll run a poll!) They might not put much stock in family, but they sure as hell believe in parenting, upbringing, etc, and will at least see that an ad for breeding that doesn't even mention parenting or parental love is critically, fundamentally wrong. (Also, the gut reaction to social control of intimacy/sex. And other feelings along these lines.)

Right. It hits their sacrednss/profanity boxes in such minds but they can't articulate a rational argument against it based on harm or fairness. Remember they think they don't have the former box. The typical universalist mind faced with something that fits sacredness/profanity latches on to the nearest rationalization expressed in the allowed stated values to resolve the cognitive dissonance. Such rationalizations then live a dangerous life of their own sometimes resulting in disturbing policies.

To analyse the example you've provided, if I'm right we should be seeing in the moderately educated mind a search for a rationalization that fits this shape:

a company with quiet aid of government promoting this might cause harm or unfairness

I think the following does so nicely:

having babies is bad because it hurts the environment and the world is overpopulated anyway

This is ironically part of the environmentalist memeplex that is elsewhere propped up mostly by purity concerns. As evidence of this I submit the most liked youtube comment to the video.

Heh, clever and well-written song. Catchy too! :D

But, it's just the government and capitalism being on a flawed infinite-grow

... (read more)
Damn right. Hmm, looks like I should post your last PM and my reply in here for kar... I mean, for the public's benefit. [Konkvistador messaged me:] [I replied:] And, speaking of that last one:

Downvoted for sharing PM's without permission.

Edit: See Konkvistador's reply.

Up voted for enforcing a community norm. I already messaged Multiheaded and explained this to him before you posted. I want to emphasise he now has my permission to post that particular PM.
[I already apologized, damnit, and he said it wasn't a problem!]
Also! Language trap here. "Democracy" as meaningful majority vote vs. "democracy" as government attention to broad popular demands vs. "democracy" as a loose cultural view of Vox Populi vox Dei vs. "democracy" as a permissive and liberal stance towards social relations, and hell, there's even more packed in here. I, for instance, think that modern China is much more democratic on many such metrics than modern Singapore. Including metrics that I value. (Singapore indeed has legitimate majority vote, but that vote, and the overton window for it, is controlled by the State in several ways that are unlike 1st world Universalist propaganda.)
Well my model of right wing capitalist regimes puts "under Western influence they transmute into social democracies when rich enough or after the founder dies" as the default. It happened in South Korea and it happened in Spain. As to "democratic" I was using it in the standard sense used when discussing international relations and geopolitics: "democratic" == does things the State Department, NYT and/or the Pentagon like. "undemocratic" == does things the State Department, NYT and/or the Pentagon don't like.
Eh, I think that you and I would have some disagreement due to harder-to-articulate terminal values here, regardless of a little variation in numbers. I can confidently say that you're dead wrong on Chiang, though. All contemporary accounts, such as those of Western liasons, say that he was very good at holding on to power via manipulation and intrigue yet very, very bad at using it for anything. He literally took bribes in plain view and spend them on himself and his cronies while his armies were hungry, demoralized and steamrolled by the Japanese; all intelligent Westerners described him with utter contempt, and his own people did not respect his authority. He's living proof that a self-interested authoritarian ruler can still be a trainwreck. For a good description of his wartime behavior (and an extensive list of sources) see e.g. Max Hastings' Retribution. Hastings is my favorite World War 2 historian btw. I'll dig up the sources on Chiang and post them later. I've had that hunch for a while and am researching it right now; this is conjunctive with what I'm trying to analyze about the current/postmodern religious and mystical consciousness. Gonna take a while. Check my yesterday's email on the New Left for a glimpse. Zizek touches on this "counter-revolution" angle in his rants about "Cultural capitalism". Also somewhat related is his distinction between the "radical/leftist" core of Christianity and "Gnostic" tendencies within it - the "Gnostics" being the ones who do not seek to immanentize the Eschaton, although I view that in a very different light and think he's dangerously one-sided here.
Note that I specifically say that a return to warlordism or a protracted civil war would be the worst of all options so Chiang being good at holding on to power is a virtue in itself. Again I'm not saying he was a particularly great ruler, its not like I expect him to live forever. But the fact remains that several decades after his death Taiwan is a first world country while China's recent growth can be largely credited to Deng [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deng_Xiaoping]'s reforms. Suppose China was divided in half between Mao and Chiang and they manage to avoid war for several decades due to cold war dynamics similar to the one that kept a divided German and Korea stable. In 2000 which half of China would you expect to be the better developed one? If you agree with my assesment that the capitalist half would likely be the better developed one, why do you expect a China that is 99% under Kuomintang governance to be worse than a China that is 99% under Communist party governance? I will add it to my reading list.
The difference between governing a 10-million enclave (a significant proportion of elite refugees among those 10 million) that serves as a forward outpost to a friendly superpower, and governing a war-ravaged empire of ~600 million (in 1949) - subsistence farmers most of them - seems to me greater than, say, the difference between running a coffee shop and Northrop Grumman. We have much evidence that Chiang was failing miserably at the latter before 1949. Under Mao, life expectancy literally doubled and the literacy rate went from 20-25% to 80%. And the increase in life expectancy is largely attributed to his vast state healthcare initiatives.
Very well, you can make that argument. So I'm taking your answer to my alternative history scenario: Is that you don't expect the capitalist half to be significantly better off than the communist half?
I have heard similarly glorious statistics for Cuba, and, until quite recently, for North Korea. Visiting Cuba in 1992 it was obvious to me that living standards, literacy, and health, had collapsed since the revolution. People are living in the decayed remnants of what had been decently comfortable houses fifty years ago. People were hungry, frightened, and desperate. It is clear that China suffered poverty and economic stagnation under Mao. You don't double living standards and life expectancy while having massive famines and operating an economy based on slave labor. Taiwan unambiguously and obviously experienced dramatic growth. Kuomintang rule was competent, efficient, and successful. Communist rule was a disaster propped up by foreign intervention.
Sorry, but it's hardly possible to fake such a tremendous increase in such basic statistics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China_%281949%E2%80%931976%29#Mao.27s_legacy [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China_%281949%E2%80%931976%29#Mao.27s_legacy] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_China#Post-1949_history [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_China#Post-1949_history] It certainly did; I never claimed otherwise, and neither did Lindsay. Mao's leadership was a little unhinged to say the least. However, we're talking about the really existing alternatives to China's particular situation in 1949, not the Cuban revolution or anything else. Um, looks like that's exactly what happened.
And equally hard, no doubt to fake the very similar tremendous increase in the basic statistics for North Korea, Cuba, and Ethiopia. I notice that in the case of Marxist Ethiopia, we saw a tremendous increase in basic statistics despite bloody and unending civil war, and the massive use of artificial famine to terrorize the peasants. And when the Marxist Ethiopian regime was finally overthrown in that bloody and terrible civil war, and peace returned, their statistics abruptly fell back to African normal. Did everyone suddenly forget how to read? Perhaps capitalism caused the death rate to suddenly rise, but did it overnight erase all that wonderful education that the communists had so successfully done?
Industrialization is a hell of a drug, isn't it? I'd also note that in my reading about the Chinese famines and especially the Great Leap Forward ones is that they were due only minimally due to nation-wide shortages, but mostly to massive failures in distribution such as falsified statistics; this scenario is consistent with both claims.
I'm just reading the book right now after seeing Foseti's review the other day. (The book is easy to find online.) However, I'm already familiar with most of its arguments from other sources. This whole topic is a very deep rabbit hole, and an attempt to study it in-depth quickly leads to a baffling situation where on many questions, all respectable sources are silent or clearly wrong or incoherent, while tantalizing clues are provided by various sources that are completely obscure or (often not without good reason) utterly disreputable. But I don't think it's a topic for which LW would be a good discussion venue in any case.
If i wanted to find a way to prolong WW2 as much as possible and maximize the body count (including American one), it would be hard to find better strategy than McCarthy's proposed one. This synopsis managed to get put my opinion about him even lower. Why shall i care about political opinions of someone who never even bothered to look at map (physical map showing mountains, rivers, roads and railroads, not political one)?
When doing a body count you really should consider the several dozen million deaths in China under Mao. This was no freak occurrence. Not only had millions already died from famine [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor] and in labour camps [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulag], but the USSR was arguably just as aggressively [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_War] expansionist [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_invasion_of_Poland] as Germany before nuclear weapons made this direct approach impractical. Anyone who knew anything about the prewar history of the Soviet Union should have realized that some costs are worth paying. If such goals where not on peoples minds and the Western Allies simply wanted to minimize casualties and ensure future peace, they should have signed an armistice with Axis powers once they had been clearly defeated in 1944 instead of demanding unconditional surrender.

Simple explanation of meta-analysis; below is a copy of my attempt to explain basic meta-analysis on the DNB ML. I thought I might reuse it elsewhere, and I'd like to know whether it really is a good explanation or needs fixing.

Hm, I don't really know of any such explanation; there's Wikipedia, of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta-analysis

A useful concept is the hierarchy of evidence: we all know anecdote are close to worthless, correlations or surveys fairly weak, experiments good, randomized experiments better, controlled randomized experiments... (read more)

Great explanation, but I think you could improve it by putting it within the context of the hierarchy of evidence [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hierarchy_of_evidence] (i.e., how it should be weighted as evidence), and mentioning its flaws. Often in skeptic circles I saw people using meta-analyses as the nuclear option in arguments with alternative medicine supporters or such -- things got awkward when both sides had a meta-analysis in their favor. Actually, I'm surprised someone hasn't made a post on how to weight research in general (that probably means someone has).
OK, I've edited it heavily. How is it now?
http://i.imgur.com/rOmjZ.gif [http://i.imgur.com/rOmjZ.gif]

A decade after Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, why is human nature still taboo? by Ed West

As Pinker recalls: “Research on human nature would be controversial in any era, but the new science picked a particularly bad decade in which to attract the spotlight. In the 1970s many intellectuals had become political radicals. Marxism was correct, liberalism was for wimps, and Marx had pronounced that ‘the ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class’. The traditional misgivings about human nature were folded into a hard-left ideology,

... (read more)
I don't think it is. These are not new ideas, there are lots of people wearing this particular clown suit, and the unfortunate thing for Pinker is that most of them are clowns. That maybe strikes you as unfair, but I think even Pinker would agree that the quality of his supporters is uneven, at best. This is just your garden-variety unpopular opinion.
Perhaps you are right, I sort of pattern matched it to cryonics as something that feels like lonely dissent because while there are other's in the world who support your idea you aren't likely to ever encounter them in your everyday life. Not among the set of scientists.

Commentary on LessWrong and its norms

That I would like to share. I recently found it on the blog Writings by James_G. I am going to add some emphasis and commentary of my own, but I'm mostly interested how other LWers see this. The main topic of the post itself is about politics and cooperation but I want to emphasise that isn't the topic I'd like to open.


So, neurological egalitarians like (I should imagine) Zachary and neurological racist-authoritarians like myself need to be able to cooperate. Unfortunately, politics is the mind-killer.

No wait—t

... (read more)
In response to the blog post Nyk writes: James_G responds: "Echoing Player of Games: my imagined forum design is federalist, like the style of government I favour; LessWrong exhibits democratic degringolade, as does today’s West." Konkvistador (me): Razib's harsh style does indeed create a comment section well worth reading. James_G responds: "I can’t fault this." Zack M. Davis criticizes James_G's approach of viewing humans as a collection subagents: I strongly agree with this.

Another example of how reading LW ruined the pleasure from reading the most of the internet:

Robot learns to recognise itself in mirror

Recognizing oneself in a mirror is considered a sign of self-awareness. Therefore, if we program a robot to say the words "this is me" when it sees an image of itself in a mirror, the robot becomes self-aware, right?

Or it could be just a cheap hack that does not prove anything. For example if we sprayed the robot with a different color, it would not recognize itself in a mirror even after billion years of contemplation.

Questions about Eliezer's Metaethics

According to Eliezer’s metaethics, morality incorporates the concept of reflective equilibrium. Given that presumably every part of my mind gets entangled with my output if I reflect long enough on some topic, isn’t Eliezer’s metaethics equivalent to saying that “right” refers to the output of X, where X is a detailed object-level specification of my entire mind as a computation?

In principle, X could decide to search for some sort of inscribed-in-stone morality out in the physical universe (and adopt whatever it finds o... (read more)

The problem is finding this algorithm. After you find it, you may isolate it from the human mind. It's like if humans would instinctively calculate 2+2, but we wouldn't be aware of what exactly are we doing. So we would need some way to discover that we actually calculate 2+2. Later, when this fact is known and verified, we can make machines that calculate 2+2 without having to inspect human mind. Such explanation would include comparing with a human mind. You can explain that the machine calculates 2+2. But to explain that the machine does the same thing that humans instinctively do, you need to compare it with a human mind.

For your enjoyment: a somewhat-rationalist Harry Potter-Sherlock Holmes crossover fanfic.

My problem with this fic is the same as with Brutal Harry: Instead of taking a harry with no changes but a different personality and bringing him into the wizarding world, both fics immediately start with giving harry new magic powers.

Related to: List of public drafts on LessWrong

Public Draft On Moral progress -- Text dump

For now this is just a text dump for relating to a conversation I had, that I retracted, not because I found them so lacking but because that particular irrationality game thread turned out to have been made by a likely troll. Expect changes in the next few days. Here is a link to the original conversation.

We have not been experiencing moral progress in the past 250 years. Moral change? Sure. I'd also be ok with calling it value drift. I talked about this previously i... (read more)

I find this juxtaposition unintentionally hilarious. The reason modern society does so much looking indignant at past instances of terrible things happening to others, rather than stopping them while they are happening, is because the only way to stop them is to use violence oneself, which modern society is especially uncomfortable with. In general this is the problem with attempting to blindly extrapolate present trends past the point where they come into conflict with other present trends.
I know it's a first draft, but "Better Angels of Our Nature", much as I love the idea of being able to geometrize moral stature. In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis talks about utopian dreams means hoping that a small proportion of the human race will tyrannize over the whole future. CEV is problematic if part of my idea of knowing more includes the idea of learning from experience. I don't have unlimited trust in extrapolation. I don't know what you mean by violence having some good traits. I can imagine an improved society which permits low-level interpersonal violence with a strong norm that equivalent retaliation should be possible. I don't think there's anything gained by big wars, but I could be wrong. "The wrong side of history" is a way of cheating in an argument. We don't know the future, and "the wrong side of history" just implies a belief that your side will continue to win. I'm willing to bet that "the wrong side of history" is used by people who aren't comfortable with making moral pronouncements.
More a text dump than anything else. Thank you for pointing out the typo thought. Violence can be fun. I'd argue this is particularly true of "safe violence", that doesn't result in death or permanent injury. Otherwise we wouldn't include it so much in every aspect of entertainment, particularly interactive entertainment. We also have people who enjoy violence in their sexual lives. Yes this is what I was going for.
I suspect the two of you are using “violence” with slightly different meanings.
Some people might reasonably, and coherently, value valuing incoherent or unreachable values (in, so to say, compartmentalized good faith - that is, you might know that an algorithm is incoherent, prone to dutch-booking, etc, but it still feels just fine from the inside) - just as some people think that belief in belief might have worth of its own, are consciously hypocritical, etc. Therefore, I'm against such one-level optimizing-away of already held values; if you see that some specific value is total mess, you might instead just compartmentalize a little, etc. (I believe I've already mentioned the above to you at some point.) BTW, a classic example of people valuing an unreachable value: "Love thy enemies". (Once I had an awesome experience meditating on it.)
I would benefit from seeing a clear distinction made in these discussions between two different questions about moral progress: 1) Have moral intentions improved? Does a typical person educated in an advanced society have better moral intentions (never mind outcomes) than a typical person educated in a backward society? 2) Have moral outcomes improved? Are there in aggregate more moral events and less immoral events (never mind intentions) now than previously? Of course there is no consensus on what "moral" means in either of these questions. I think Pinkerian "amount of violence" is a pretty good proxy for 2), but not for 1).
Your counterargument to Pinker is pretty central to this thing, but as it stands it seems to boil down to a not yet very convincing "I don't care for vegetarianism. Violence is occasionally entertaining." This part should be the one that makes the reader go, hm, maybe there's a point there, but it's currently doing nothing to make me stop classifying factory farming food industry and a preoccupation with violence as problems instead of things to cherish. Moving on to this is also confusing. You're basically restating the exact problem CEV is for, without mentioning that CEV is for this problem. This also really only makes sense if you antropomorphize FAI into basically an equivalent of the cultural norms of the era. There are way too many unknown unknowns in how the basic cultural backdrop would come out in the end when operated on by an AI as compared to when operated on by collective human minds for the equating to outcomes of a culture run by humans to make much sense. I'm basically assuming that the hopefully better understanding of just how intelligence works at 2400 would dominate over whatever the human cultural norms are like for how FAI2400 as opposed to FAI2012 would come out. If I wanted to attack the thesis that we're experiencing moral progress due to cultural evolution, I'd go for looking at how we currently have unprecedented energy resources at our disposal, and can afford a great deal more social signaling of every sort than in pretty much any other point in history, and how the past 300 years we've been on a rising gradient towards the current level of resource use. From historical perspective, I'd be interested if we can quantify any sort of differences in moral progress separate from material progress in the various geographically and culturally separate historical large civilizations, and what we can make of the collapse of the Roman Empire into the Early Middle Ages. The article might also try to say something about what it could mean for
You bastard. EDIT: That's a joke, in case it's not clear.
This is plain false because my parents are married. However this isn't usually how we do moral arguments around here, are you new to the site?
That was a joke.
Went right over my head, sorry. :)
You probably weren't the only one, its famously hard to convey tone using text.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law]

I don't know what a 'model' is. Someone play taboo with me, and tell me about how theories work. Literally speaking, a model, like, airplane is isomorphic to some degree or another to the real airplane of which it is a model. Is that how a scientific theory works? Is there some isomorphism between the parts of the theory and things in the world?

Yes, just like that. In science, a model is a set of variables that stand for physical quantities, together with a set of relationships between those variables, which are asserted to correspond with the relationships among the physical quantities. The relationships are typically expressed mathematically. For example, s = (at^2)/2, where s is the distance travelled in time t by an object under constant acceleration a starting from rest. This is a model of what happens when you drop something. More generally, there is a Wikipedia page [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_modelling], which is sound but I think over-complicates the idea (and the section on "Business process modelling" doesn't belong there at all), and even more so the disambiguation page for "Model" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model], but the same fundamental idea runs through the whole.
A model is a map of the territory. For example, we could create an emulation of a light bulb using the most the most basic understanding of a light bulb. I.e., you flip a switch, magic goes through a wire, and on goes the light bulb. Or if you wished (and could) make the model more accurate, you would go down to the level of electrons, or even further. However, you wouldn't want a model at the most fundamental level if you're trying to understand how artificial light affects human behavior, for example. Models are a tool for explaining, understanding, and predicting phenomena conveniently.
Or for representing phenomena in an altered "format". For example, I have read a description of the bimetallic spring in a thermostat as a model of the room's temperature presented in a way that the furnace can make use of it.

X is in a category whose archetypal member has certain features.

I don't always judge X. But when I do, I judge X as if it also had those features. Stay thirsty, my friends.

--The Worst Argument in the World

kickstarter, how to

Miniatures company aims for 30K, is over 1M with 5 days to go. Possibly of interest here because it's a fine example of understanding what motivates people.

One for the startups thread?
I don't have a problem if you want to put it there.

Suppose you are pretty sure the society you are living in is evil, beyond your power to destroy and unlikely to ever reform.

How would you deal with the psychological toll of such a life? What strategies and approaches would you recommend?

How high are your standards for non-evilness? Singapore and Switzerland seem non-evil to me and are reasonably easy to immigrate to.
Probably unreasonably high. The thing is I'm currently not sure there is a non-evil human society around.
Move to a less evil society. Better yet, move to a good society, assuming such a thing exists. Otherwise, keep you head down. Do what the society compels you to do (pay your taxes, obey the laws, etc.) because there is no sense fighting against it if there is no significant chance of reform. Beyond that, try to live as though you lived in a good society. Focus on following your passions, finding a romantic partner, getting a fulfilling job, and so on.
http://lesswrong.com/lw/sc/existential_angst_factory/ [http://lesswrong.com/lw/sc/existential_angst_factory/] You could try self-modifying to not hate evil people ("hate the sin not the sinner"). Here's some emotional arguments that might help (I make no claim as to their logical coherence): If there was only one person in existence and they were evil, would you want them to be punished or blessed? Who would it serve to punish them? If you are going to excuse people with mental illness you are going to have to draw some arbitrary line along the gradient from "purposely evil" to "evil because of mental illness." Also consider the gradient of moral responsibility from child to adult. If someone who was once evil completely reformed would you still see value in punishing them? Would you wish you hadn't punished them while they were still evil? Although someone may have had a guilty mind at the moment of their crime, do they still at the moment of punishment? What if you are increasing the quantum measure of an abstracted isomorphic experience of suffering?

Why hate loan givers?

I find myself asking is why was the practice of making loans with interest rates so unpopular in antiquity? I always assumed this was about excessive interest rates (whatever those are), however it now seems to me that usury was about charging any interest on loans.

Some of the earliest known condemnations of usury come from the Vedic texts of India. Similar condemnations are found in religious texts from Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At times many nations from ancient China to ancient Greece to ancient Rome have outlawe

... (read more)
Per Gregory Clark in A Farewell to Alms, the ancients had noticeably less future time-orientation than modern people. Furthermore, there were relatively few ways to make profitable investments - it's not as though a farmer could take loans out to buy a tractor. In that context, lending is more akin to drug dealing than responsible investing. It hooks in people with poor self-control who will spend it on consumption not investment. So the logical thing to do is to crack down on the practice. Yes there are some responsible users who lose out, but that's far outweighed by the benefit to those who'd end up in debtor's prison after blowing the cash on one glorious drunken weekend. I mean, we as a civilization still have a problem with payday loans [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payday_loans].
Did we read the same book? Clark's whole point was that there were many secure (eg. his argument that property rights were more secure in early Britain than during the Industrial Revolution) high-paying investments; this surprised me so much that I recorded one snippet from chapter 9 in my Evernotes: EDIT: Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations:
Yes, it looks like you're right that there were significant investment opportunities even with BC technology, unlike what I assumed. We can quibble over whether these investment opportunities were "deep" or one-offs, but it seems reasonable that irrigating farms is something you can invest a lot in before hitting diminishing returns. This is still a strange phenomenon: on one hand you have potential investments with high rates of return, even with risk adjustments - yet market interest rates were very high, showing few people were willing to make those investments. Clark's argument is that this demonstrates low ability to delay gratification among the ancients. This being the case, although there evidently were opportunities for loans to be put to good investment purposes, it looks like there was a strong psychological impulse to blow it on consumption - maybe comparable to the behavior of the Western poor today. It is still plausible that restricting moneylending was good policy if the good borrowing:bad borrowing ratio was unfavorable enough.
I ran into [https://plus.google.com/103530621949492999968/posts/hyFC7d2NMiE] a relevant paper [http://www.religionomics.com/archives/file_download/37/Iannaccone+-+Introduction+to+the+Economics+of+Religion.pdf] on the 'economics of religion' which offers some interesting theories:
Does human intuition need to be explained, or just mapped? There are explanations available for why there are many cities along rivers, and they are of positive but limited value if you want to understand why Baghdad is where it is. The history of usury laws tells a very interesting story about human intuition, and it can be used to make predictions about people's reactions to similar but novel proposals. But how to tell if there should be a more elegant explanation?
Explaining intuitions gives insight into whether they are useful. And yes even in this case I do leave the possibility open that all ursury is bad for reasons I don't yet understand despite the consensus among economists on it. But your question is actually a poignant one since it is one we should have clearly answered at nearly any step of the entire LessWrong project of building up human rationality, yet I don't recall us attempting to do so.
Bahá'í Faith Is Usury Good ? [http://bahaicoherence.blogspot.com/2010/07/is-usury-good.html]: Ancient Middle East Johnson, Paul: A History of the Jews (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1987) ISBN 0-06-091533-1, pp. 172–73.
Probably because it would have had less of an impact if the Bible had said "Thou shalt not lend upon interest greater than 6% to thy brother."

Lure of the Void (Part 1) a recent blog post on Urban Future on the culture of space travel in the West.

That has a link to a new article by Sylvia Engdahl who has written on the importance of space for years, http://www.sylviaengdahl.com/space.htm [http://www.sylviaengdahl.com/space.htm]

Every now and then, I want to use the expression "the map is not the territory" when writing something aimed at a non-LW audience. Naturally, in addition to briefly explaining what I mean by that in the text itself, I'd prefer to make the sentence a link to an illustrative LW post. However, I'm not sure of what would be a good page to link - the wiki has three (1 2 3) pages about the subject, but I'm not sure if any one of them is very good for this purpose. Suggestions?

To reduce the inferential distance, remove the metaphor or replace it with one appropriate for your audience. "Belief is not reality", "wishing does not make it so" are some examples. Once people are comfortable with the idea, you can introduce the map/territory metaphor and link first to the Wikipedia entry [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_map_is_not_the_territory]. Wikipedia generally has more credibility than any niche site like LW. The "simple truth" parable on yudkowsky.net is quite engaging, but rather wordy and vague, and so should not be a primary reading, but rather a supplementary one.
I like your examples, perhaps someone could do something like this [http://blogs.agu.org/mountainbeltway/2011/10/17/words-matter/] for LW jargon.
People mean different things by "the map is not the territory". For instance, it's sometimes used to say "no description is perfectly accurate" whereas other times it's more like "be careful not to confuse levels of reference." And sometimes it's more like a critique of magical thinking: "changing the map doesn't change the territory." There's a Wikipedia article [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Map-territory_relation] about it, too ... which also isn't especially great ...

Is there any sort of prevailing opinion in LW about diet? For instance, paleo, IF, CR, etc. The only posts I could find are inconclusive and from years back.

A very simple and easy first step is cutting out all liquids except for water (if that is too difficult, start with the soda). This helps a lot.

I think there is a vague consensus that, all other things equal, eating less will make you lose weight and eating more will make you gain weight? I might have seen someone post a counterexample at least once, but I might simply be misremembering.
Paleo seems to be popular around here but I am pretty skeptical of it actually being a good idea (I am open to updating if evidence is presented). Intermittent fasting is the only thing I really feel like I can recommend, and even that is something that will work for some people but not others (did not work for me, but LeanGains [http://www.leangains.com/] makes specific enough predictions that a sufficiently large number of people seem satisfied by that I am convinced it is a real phenomenon). Also fixing any deficiencies you have (more water if you are dehydrated, for instance; probably more protein if you are a vegetarian).
If you're looking for a good diet, the first question is - a good diet for what?
The consensus I've picked up is that if you focus on just eating the right macronutrients and getting some exercise, everything else usually works out - try to replace sugar, refined starch, and processed fruit/vegetable product with protein, lowish glycemic index starch, and less bland fruit/veg. Another idea that was useful to me is that mass-produced food has to have a low water content, or else it goes bad really quickly, and so replacing water with fat is a great way to make mass-produced food better. But in fresh food there's no such limitation. This means that eating fresher food basically substitutes fat for water in a lot of your food items.
1. Make it difficult to consume more calories than the amount of calories necessary for maintaining your target weight. E.g., make it such that you need to eat a lot of food everyday to reach the maintenance level for your target weight (fast food, e.g., makes it very very easy to go over that target). Or you only eat after a certain time late in the day. 2. Religiously monitor your progress. Take pictures of your back, side, front every week. Weigh yourself everyday. Take measurements -- use us navy body fat calculator. Find a way to show off your progress [http://www.reddit.com/r/progresspics]. (This is all purely motivational.) 3. Do the kind of exercise that you will excel at with your desired body type. If you want to be muscular, do a lot of body weight exercises. If you want to be lean, do a lot of long distance running. But note that some body types require different nutritional compositions. 4. This must be a lifestyle change, and not a temporary thing to just lose fat. 5. You need to believe it will work, and continually adapt to setbacks. eta: this is what I've gathered from the research showing the strategies of people successful at losing body fat and maintaining a lower bf%.

Congratulations to Vladimir Nesov for passing Anna Salamon in karma and making it to the top contributors, all time list.

Karma for the last 30 days appears to be displaying 0 for all users.

Relatedly, is there a bug report link somewhere permanent on LW? Could there be? (Should there be?)


Tomorrow, I begin an Intro to Ethics class at university. (I need it for a General Education requirement.) I found out that the professor is a Continental philosopher, possibly with Marxist influences. My cursory reading of Continental philosophy doesn't give me a good impression of the field.

I'm trying to reserve judgment until I experience the class, but I'm worried it will be a miserable exercise in guessing the teacher's password... I'll still (likely) get an 'A', but it might be a very trying experience.

I think my fear is illustrated by the oft-quote... (read more)

See what you can learn. Try to steel-man [http://lesswrong.com/lw/85h/better_disagreement/] the arguments that you encounter. If you're faced with bad arguments then three things that you can focus on (in declining order of priority) are: 1) what good points are in the neighborhood of this argument, 2) what is the central flaw of this argument (which gets at its core), and 3) why would someone find this argument plausible? #3 is especially useful if it can lead you back towards 1 & 2. In most philosophy classes, you can get a good grade if you make clear arguments, and clearly lay out the arguments that you disagree with before expressing your reasons for disagreement. So it's probably worth at least giving that a try (especially if you have opportunities to try it out early in the class that won't have much effect on your final grade). If it doesn't go smoothly, before jumping to the mind-numbing "guess the password" solution, try looking at it as a problem of inferential distance. Are there ways of getting your points across more clearly based on how you frame your argument, what background information you give, which claims you leave out of your argument (because they are inessential and too many inferential steps away), etc.? I took several philosophy-related classes (in a few different departments), and only had one where I had to do something like guessing the teacher's password. In that class the professor was a postmodernist type, who designed the course as a way to explain his worldview and assigned papers for us to write that had to follow a template that fit within his worldview. On the whole that class was a good experience. I didn't have to worry much about password-guessing except when writing those papers; in class I was sincere & engaged and focused on inferential distance (including trying to point out flaws in his reasoning in class discussion in a way that was concise, catchy to other students, and non-annoying). It took some thinking to figure
Thanks for taking the time to respond! I found your advice helpful. If you're curious about how my experience was of the class, see this comment [http://lesswrong.com/lw/e3a/open_thread_august_1631_2012/7ass].
So, how did the first day go?
To answer your question from the other post, the class is relatively small. About 20 people, all sat in a circle. Thanks for asking! The first day went okay. He said some wonky things about the divisions between science, philosophy, and "faith," as well as that atheism is a faith. But beyond that, he seemed really nice and approachable. I get the impression that he's a fair grader, as well. I stopped by his office this morning during office hours, and we talked about philosophy and science for about an hour. We have some obvious disagreements, but he seemed genuinely curious in where I was coming from and was interested in talking more. At times I found it very difficult to bridge the inferential gaps. I am a bit down on myself for not doing as well as I would have liked, but on balance I think it was a good experience.
Thats good to hear.
First look at the syllabus especially the teacher's title. Intro classes that are also commonly taken by out of major students tend to follow pretty strict departmental guidelines and/or be taught by people who are pretty low on the academic totem pole. Thus there is good chance that the teacher won't be able shoehorn too much of their pet projects in. Before I go one can I ask about how large the class is? -edit I was going to customize it a bit based on the class format, but was intending to say more or less what Unnamed did, minus the personal anecdotes. I was also going to add that if the teacher is completely horrible you might be able to transfer to another section. On a final note you might want to look into pragmatism [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pragmatism/#PraPra] and late Wittgenstein [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wittgenstein/#Mea]. From what I've seen they aren't up to the standard of the sequences, but do provide a high status/low inferential distance (to philosophers) way of pointing out some of the most common ways people misuse words.

William Thurston: On proof and progress in mathematics. Good stuff on the more unformal core bits of mathematics here.

Mathematicians have developed habits of communication that are often dysfunctional. Organizers of colloquium talks everywhere exhort speakers to explain things in elementary terms. Nonetheless, most of the audience at an average colloquium talk gets little of value from it. Perhaps they are lost within the first 5 minutes, yet sit silently through the remaining 55 minutes. Or perhaps they quickly lose interest because the speaker plunges i

... (read more)

On Paternal Age and genetic load from the West Hunter blog by Gregory Cochran.

Apropos: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2012/08/beware-of-the-ancient-of-days/ [http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2012/08/beware-of-the-ancient-of-days/]
Worrying. They're too good at general-domain planning and learning. Might they be people?
I don't eat cephalopods even though I still eat other seafood because I have error bars around that.
Squid and cuttlefish still look pretty stupid. I'm not motivated to stop eating cows because humans are people (and if I understand the reasons for your vegetarianism, neither are you), so avoiding the order Octopoda alone seems safe enough. Octopus as food is rare in most cultures (exceptions are some Mediterranean cultures, Japan, and Hawaii).
Well, I never liked squid all that much anyway (and the one time I tried octopus I didn't like it) so it's not a big sacrifice to have the error bar anyway. And it means I get to use the word "cephalopods" routinely in casual conversation.

Any LWers with recommendations for ways to improve social skills? Right now, I can more-or-less hold a conversation, but I tend to overthink what to say and end up not saying anything, and I just generally lack confidence. How much benefit would I get from, say, joining an improv class or doing (more) rejection therapy?

I think the most important realization re typical conversation is that its purpose is not for information exchange, it's for bonding (like apes picking nits off each other). A good conversationalist has a lot of anecdotes (and continually generates more), listens and mentally models others well, and makes no overt attempts at lowering the status of others within the conversation (this could be something as seemingly innocuous as pointing out that someone is wrong about something).
Nerds bond by exchanging information.
Yeah, nerds are atypical in many ways. Also, you could form information into compelling anecdotes/stories like the best science journalists do (Carl Zimmer comes to mind).
Practice conversation and you will get better at it. That's it. More helpfully, if there is a random stranger near you, you can open them and talk for a bit about any random smalltalk bull you like. This will improve general conversation skills. If you live in a large anonymous city you don't need to care if people think that's weird because people will not be getting together to share these impressions. Advice I picked up from reading PUAshit; jump between topics without feeling the need to link them or segue at all. Advice that sounds good that I haven't tried out; record yourself in conversation to pick out flaws. Oh, and pause, don't um. Improv will help, and remember, keep calm and carry on.
Also, choose topics where inferential distance [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Inferential_distance] for a random person is small. This is what allows talking instead of explaining, and easy jumping between the topics. Avoid controversial topics, such as money, politics, religion. A good topic is easy to understand, and does not divide people into opposing groups.
What topics aren't controversial and within a short inferential distance from most people? My intuition is that this is close to the definition of "boring".
Listen to actual conversation sometime, most of it is excruciatingly boring if you think about it in terms of information. But as other posters have pointed out, most conversation is about social bonding, not exchanging information.
This all looks like good advice; thanks. I think my main problem is that I have trouble mustering up the guts to actually do these things. I just don't talk to strangers. Maybe I could get around that by precommitting to social interaction? Like signing up for improv like you say, or with stickk, or by going on some sort of working holiday?
If you're not really good at reading feedback, practice won't help in the least. People will be polite to you, which you won't distinguish from pleased, and quietly hate you.
Really good is helpful, very helpful, but not necessary.If what you're saying is that practicing on randomers you won't meet again is low EV given poor is people reading skills, sureis. But iwhat's higher? And for people with over sensitive rejection detectors or general anxiety practice is good even if all you get out of it is calmer.
Getting in group conversations, then mostly shutting up and watching. Most people will be decent conversationalists to learn from, you'll be able to watch reactions more closely than if you were concentrating on talking at the same time, and they'll gossip about the absent which will tell you what to avoid.
What worked for me better than anything was standing on a busy sidewalk holding a sign that said "Free Hugs" for a few hours. I came away feeling very high status and had a friendly, open orientation towards everyone I saw. Another idea is to play the eye contact game lukeprog mentions in one of his skill-building posts: stare in to a friend's eyes for 15 minutes straight. Seems to have permanently made me way more comfortable maintaining eye contact (this is more than a year after doing the exercise).
Thanks for the advice. The second one in particular is surprising because most of the once-off life-changes I've tried have had no effect on me a week or two later. I've added both to my list of "things I'll wish I'd done sooner", from where I'll hopefully make concrete plans to actually execute them.
I'm also interested in this. I want to know what specific social situations I can put myself in to build social skills. Raw exposure doesn't seem to work well for and in any case isn't time effective.
If you feel you lack confidence you could try exposure as others have suggested. If you want put yourself in an awkward situation you could maybe Skype with me or someone ells willing. That way you can pick out the flaws afterwards as Barry pointed out .
Thanks for the skype offer. Maybe as a stepping-stone to real social interaction I could try talking to lots of random people online via chatroulette or something similar?
I notice that you've listed things you do that are not working. Can you think of people you interact with who seem to have achieved victory? What do they do? How do other people respond? It may be easier to decide if improv or rejection therapy is helping if you have more metrics to check to see if people are comfortable and/or enjoying conversations with you. Feelings of confidence are an internal signal, and not a very trustworthy one, since you will feel unconfident when you're experimenting. Look for some external signals like the body language of people you're talking to (arms uncrossed, duchenne smiles [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smile#Duchenne_smiling], etc). Combine rejection therapy and data gathering and ask some friends outright what you could improve. (Tell them to be specific). One thing that I did was to notice some people who seemed good at socializing and then just try to impersonate some aspects of what they did. Don't mimic to the point of parody, but pick out a few specific things they do (relaxed, splayed leg body language, asks questions to draw out others, etc) and then just try them out for a week.
Other people seem to be able to sit down and assimilate themselves into a group conversation, when I do this I rarely end up saying anything. Yeah, I think that feeling unconfident is largely the cause, so it's something that I should try to avoid even though it is an especially poor internal signal. I should try to make myself update on some more reliable signals like those. Yeah, I should try that more. My main issues with mimicing successful people is that I have trouble mustering the emotion to do it effectively.
Social abilities are useful when you are prepared to say awful things like agreeing, when disagree. People would reward if they feel you are part of they social/groupthinking. For this infere that there is habilities you could train in terms of general competence, but is is better to have some specific groups in mind.

The FHI just released a technical report, Indefinite Survival through Backup Copies whose result is:

it is possible to have a finite chance to survive an infinite time even if there is a finite chance of getting destroyed per unit of time, if you make backup copies (that are also destroyable) at a high enough rate. The number of backup copies needed only grows logarithmically with time, a surprisingly slow growth.

I'd previously been assuming that exponentially many copies were needed (in order to "cancel out" the fact that if you only have one... (read more)

Why I am a deathist, for those who can't understand the mentality:

Because the thought that someday I will die is a -liberating- thought for me. First you must understand who I was, however - in my youth I was absolutely terrified of a permanent injury of any sort. (When I realized, truly realized, I'd been circumcised, it was mildly traumatizing.) This extends to the mental as well as the physical.

The realization, later, that I would die - wasn't a horrifying thought. It was a realization that permanence was a faulty assumption about anything except de... (read more)

It sounds like you're describing two attitudes towards immortality, an abstract one and a concrete one. The concrete attitude: "I don't desire never to die, but rather not to crumble away into something just more than nothing." "What's more likely in any given ten year period, pristine immortality being fully resolved, or somebody awakening my mind to an existence I would never want?" "The opportunity for suicide does not alleviate these issues, incidentally, because of my certainty I would not choose it." I will not comment on these concerns today. The abstract attitude is summed up by: The map-territory distinction is useful here. You should say instead The idea of death allays your anxieties by inspiring healthy emotions. That doesn't mean that the idea of death should inform your decisions. It's possible to comfort yourself with the thought of death and then go ahead and sign up for cryonics anyways, just like how people can comfort themselves by not thinking about death and then go ahead and wear a seat belt. But you no doubt have other, more concrete objections to cryonics, which takes us back to your first attitude. Those objections are better reasons to make "deathist" decisions. Better yet, you could use a different narrative to comfort yourself. Just because the thought that you're going to die someday succeeded in allaying your anxieties doesn't mean it's the only narrative that can do so. (That it is sufficient for your sanity does not imply that it is necessary for your sanity!) It's worth spending some time on looking for an alternative narrative that's just as comforting and which is more concordant with your preference "not to die tomorrow". If you do switch narratives, you might find that you're no longer "deathist" but none of your decisions have changed. In that case all that changed was your aesthetic. But I suspect if you change your abstract attitude towards death, you might find that your concrete attitude changes as well: You might notic
I am pondering on this. It may take some time.
This problem has been solved already. Keep backups.
Shouldn't you be working on that phobia directly? Even without the part where it makes you want to die, it sounds pretty unpleasant. It might help to spend time around disabled people, especially those who aren't just adapting to their disability but actively building culture around it, like the Deaf community. Paralympic athletes with better-than-natural accommodations also come to mind, but you might react better to people just going about their daily life in slightly unusual ways than to awesome flashy gizmos. What is frightening you exactly? Your circumcision example suggests visibly losing body parts is the problem, but the rest of your post mentions loss of abilities more. The image I associate with "something just more than nothing" is that of the kind of patients uncharitably called "vegetables". Is that correct? I don't know how much limits-pushing badassery appeals to you, but I'd like to present another view: someone with a broken body and a broken mind, who refuses to give up and every day deploys great courage and cunning and perseverance to achieve what you do without thinking, through pain and fear and confusion and repeated failure. It's very bad, but the attitude is awesome.
Loss of abilities is something people can relate to more. The "permanent" part is more important than the "injury" part. A small scar nobody could see was a horrifying thought to me. It extended to the mental as well. The thought that I might not be able to learn every language in existence in the narrow timeframe before my mind "hardened" against learning new languages was horrifying as well. (Particularly torturous, that one, because languages were dead-last on my list of things I needed to learn -soon-. I recognize Eliezer's fear that he won't be done with what he needs done by the time he's 40 - but start those fears at age 7 and thinking it may already be too late and you might have some inkling of what my childhood was like.)
Is it any comfort that no injury can be permanent, since it's vanishingly unlikely that we'll find a way around the universe's heat death but not around damage to human bodies in the next few billion years?
I don't think this reasoning actually makes sense, but regardless, why do you think this makes it okay for other people to die, if they don't want to? That's what deathism is.
Not all deathism holds that everybody should die, only that death is good.
My brother prefers the label "anti-liveite".
Hum, I don't get the reasoning. You say the perspective of death allows you to better handle the thought of permanent injury. But "conquering death" also implies conquering permanent injury. I really don't see how we could prevent death but not be able to regrow a limb (or foreskin). So if we remove both the risk of permanent injury and death at the same time, what's your need for death ?
"I don't desire never to die, but rather not to crumble away into something just more than nothing." There is a difference between conquering death and conquering the ailments of the mortal condition - mental and physical. If we can upload minds before we can repair bodies, we can achieve immortality without solving any of these issues.
Hrm, no, if we can upload mind, then we can just hold the minds in "stand by" mode until we have the technology to build bodies at least as good as a fully sane normal human.
Contingency-based wish machines are evil genies who may not even respect your wishes. I have to ask - what's more likely in any given ten year period, pristine immortality being fully resolved, or somebody awakening my mind to an existence I would never want? You should never pause your mind until some contingency is reached unless you are precisely aware of what other contingencies could result in your mind being unpaused - and have done the calculations and identified the risk.

Does anyone have experience with speed dating? Specifically did they find that it improved social skills? It seems like it would be very effective.

In theory it seems an excellent way to practice what are called "openers" by PUAs, short introductory statements that grab peoples attention by amusing or engaging them. I should point out that some consider talking or flirting to other people with the intention of practicisng social skill unethical. I'm not sure why. I've had very good experiences and made tons of new acquaintances just starting conversations with strangers in such a manner. This is somewhat rare behaviour in my culture. Keep in mind that speed dating is an artificial situation. Seemingly trivial details unique to the setting will change outcomes considerably thus reducing how transferable the skills and calibration you gain will be. To give an example of such factors, it has been shown that when you rotate the men in such an event and the women stay put, they become choosier about the partner. When you reverse the roles men become choosier.
I've stopped trying to start conversations with strangers. When I considered it a 'live option' I didn't think that I was getting enough conversations out the effort I was allocating. I imagine it would be a better option for people who were not as shy to begin with. The reason that speed dating is attractive to me is that I don't think that I could get many more conversations started in a speed dating environment because it would be expected that I would once I was in it. Yeah, that's good to keep in mind. I would expect that a lot of it wouldn't transfer, but even if a small amount did it seems like it would be worth the investment for me.

I'm looking for strategies/techniques to manage/improve poor working memory, I currently find myself in situations where I forget to do something I thought about doing just a minute past or so. If anyone have any worth trying out, I'd love to here about them.

Strategies that I already use are:

  • Visual ques, putting things in positions that make me notice them hence remember.
  • Domino-ques, i.e. focusing on remember one thing that will remind me of a number of things.
  • Outsourcing, pen and paper mostly.
DNB? [http://www.gwern.net/DNB%20FAQ#n-back-improves-working-memory]
Oh I didn't know gwern had written about it! Thanks, I'll try to implement it best I can.
My impression is that a lot gets "forgotten" because it wasn't noticed in the first place. Have you tried mindfulness meditation? I don't know whether your mind works the same way, but I find that sometimes (if I remember to check!) I can tell whether I've actually done something by checking for tactile/kinesthetic memory in addition to visual.
Hmm well, I can tell from the feel of my hands if I have done something that requires me to wash them even if my hands are not visual dirty. Do know any particular technique that enables you to assign feels to preformed actions?
I'm not sure whether you can expect memory improvement from mindfulness meditation-- I was suggesting it as something plausible rather than proven. The most detail I've seen about the benefits of mindfulness meditation are about calmness rather than memory. I think kinesthetic and tactile memories get saved for me of things I've actually done for a short time. I'm not sure how long it is, but it seems to be more than half an hour and less than a day. I recommend exploring whether there are memory differences between what you intend to do and what you've actually done.

I've found the self-help stuff on here useful, and I was wondering if anyone could recommend any useful online study skills guides? I'm particularly interested in learning to read/take notes and retain information more effectively. At the moment, I can spend hours reading and take very little in!

You may already have heard of it, but spaced repetition [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/mediawiki/index.php?title=Spaced_repetition] is the solution to the problem of retaining memory-worthy information.
I've found Study Hacks [http://calnewport.com/blog/] to be particularly helpful.

I've been reading Robert Lindsay's blog - he's a total badass of a contrarian, stark raving mad in a good way, and a self-identified Stalinist, mentioned favorably by TGGP). He is a feminist-hating feminist, a liberal humanist who supports far-left totalitarian repression, and an anti-racist/anti-fascist White Supremacist - among other things. Literally a mad genius.

Anyway, what I want to mention is that, from the remarks of a guest poster there, I extrapolated what looks like a succint, plausible and non-mind-killed explanation of why, paradoxically, Afri... (read more)

Why doesn't this apply to every minority? For example, when anti-Semitism broke down, why didn't it leave behind little Jewish ghettos of swirling social dysfunction and failure as the best Jews escaped into goyish society? Why not any Asian group? etc.

Good try anyway.

If this is model is correct then we should expect it to also work when dealing with class. If so it might explain the rise of the native British underclass, as the old culturally enforced class barriers where lessened by meritocracy in the early 20th century, evaporative cooling ensured the remaining lower class suffered more and more social pathologies. If Charles Murray's Coming Apart [http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Apart-State-America-1960-2010/dp/0307453421] case that such a cultural divergence between classes is taking place in America is correct, we should be able to make a few predictions about the near term social future of that country. At a glance these predictions seem plausible as they match most current recorded trends. This seems related to matters discussed in my public draft on Meritocracy [http://lesswrong.com/lw/d3h/open_thread_june_1630_2012/6xa5] and the comment section there:

I like the Rationality Quotes, but it seems it is dominated by fairly long entries, rather than the small gems that I prefer. Now, obviously some people like those longer entries, but it'd be great if I those could be filtered out in some way. Is there a way to do that?

Here you are: Best of short rationality quotes 2009-2012. I created it with a one-line modification of the script I used here: Best of Rationality Quotes, 2011 Edition. The threshold is 400 characters including XML markup. The user-names for the newer quotes are missing, I'll fix this for the 2012 Edition.

Great! Thanks a lot for this!

2 separate related comments:

1) I'm moving to Vienna on the 25th. If there exist lesswrongers there I'd be most happy to meet them.

2) Moving strikes me as a great opportunity to develop positive, life-enchancing habits. If anyone has any literature or tips on this i'd greatly appreciate it


Note; The story I originally posted here was true and complete. However the details detract from the main point of the post, which was to indicate material support for life extension causes. Hence the edit.

Owing to a recent financial windfall, I now intend to travel the world working towards life extension. Im starting by pledging donations to the Brain Preservation Fund and the Kim Suozzi fund. Readers will also shortly see my name appearing on the donar list of the aforementioned funds.

I have a blog (link below) where I will soon be writing about ... (read more)

I hope you don't expect that the majority of the people here will just take a random stranger at his word regarding this, even if many of them are too polite to say so plainly. I have a significant higher estimation that you're lying for purposes of trolling, than that you are accurately describing what happened. In the slight possibility that you're telling the truth, I hope you're not offended by my low estimation of the likelihood of such sincerity.
Geddes isn't exactly a random stranger, he's been trolling SI related forums [http://www.sl4.org/archive/0511/12949.html] for something like a decade.
Dude you are looking at numbers through some 9/11 Truther eyes, you definitely got a long way to go if you plan on travelling the world "working towards life extension". It's great that you are donating money to these funds, but please don't use your story as a "The SAI might be God" thingy. It will only make people look at transhumanism as a religion (like plenty already do). Congratulations
Congratulations! For the sake of people reading this post who may not be familiar with the concept of backwards causality: This is not the typical LW understanding of decision theory. Here's an example of what "backwards causality" could actually mean: Thinking of it as "backwards causality" enacted by the hypothetical future wish-granting agent is a useful way of thinking about certain decision problems but should never preclude a normal, traditional explanation. Lest anyone claim I am ruining the mood: Praise be to the glorious Eschaton; that acausal spring from which all blessings flow!
And therefore I am skeptical. I don't believe stories of people who beat odds of 500,000 to 1 against by calling on help from the post-singularity future. Therefore something is fishy about this story.
I wrote my comment above under the assumption of mjgeddes' honesty but I also believe they are more likely lying than not lying. My alternative theories are: mjgeddes is just trolling without any real plan (40%), mjgeddes is planning to laugh at us all for believing something with such an explicitly low prior. (40%), something else (>19%), actually won the lottery: <1% Yet still I feel the need to give them the benefit of the doubt. I wonder precisely when that social heuristic should be abandoned...
Anyway, selection effects. If half a million people try to do that and one succeeds, you hear from that one but not from the other 499,999
Or something is fishy about your metaphysic, yo. (I have no opinion on the matter.)
Which airline did you fly, and what type aircraft has a seat numbered 27? Every aircraft I've ever seen with more than 10 seats numbers them with a number and letter...
Congratulations! It's looks like the whole world got lucky! If you think it's the latter, I would urge you to keep the specifics of your summoning-the-SAI strategy to yourself. Perhaps share it with lukeprog. But please don't tell us how you did it---I wouldn't want that information to fall into the wrong hands!

Of interest to probably no one but me: I seem to have lost 20 karma overnight. My views are not exactly mainstream in this community, but I am vague curious what triggered someone to go through some of my recent comments to downvote them.

Also, it doesn't appear to be related to this new feature.

Is anyone else's karma score for the last 30 days also showing as 0?

Mine is, which is a little weird and surely can't be right given my many comments over the last 30 days.
Also, the top contributors list for the last 30 days is blank. :-/
Clearly we are disappointing LW and need to improve our contribution quality.

(test, please ignore)

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An attempt to apply causal reasoning a la Pearl, to the interpretation of quantum correlations. Their framework is totally not ready to analyze the full range of possible interpretations of QM, but they make a start on formally depicting a number of informal arguments that you see in the interpretation debate.

I have become 30% confident that my comments here are a net harm, which is too much to bear and so I am discontinuing my comments here unless someone cares to convince me otherwise.

Edit: Good-bye.

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What the hell? Did you catch Konkvistador disease or something? What is up with high-quality contributors deciding to up and leave?

I, for one, think that your posts are valuable to the community.

(I'm assuming you mean that you suspect your comments cause harm to others, obviously if you think you're spending to much time procrastinating on LessWrong then leaving is fine.)

I've recently read a lot of strong claims and mind-killing argumentation made against E.Y.'s assertion that MWI is the winning/leading interpretation in QM. The SEP seems to agree with this, which means I've got a bottom-line here to erase since both of my favorite authorities agree on that particular conclusion.

I know very little actual, factual QM, as relates to the math, experiments, hard data, evidence and physics beyond what's constantly being regurgitated in popular-science-news articles - AKA loads of BS.

How should I go about being epistemically r... (read more)

I think being epistemically rational entails learning the mathematical part of QM first and reading through the QM sequence afterwards. Before you can seriously attack the problem of interpretation of QM, you needn't necessarily know the experiments and hard data and evidence for QM, but you must know the mathematical structure of the theory, because that's the thing what you are going to interpret!

Be sure you operationally understand QM under the collapse interpretation, that is, you should know how to calculate probability distribution of observed results in series of subsequent measurements of different observables and you should understand the standard jargon. You will probably have to learn Hamiltonian mechanics in the course (if you don't know it already); it is not strictly necessary for the collapse-related questions, but most textbooks assume familiarity with it from the beginning, and besides, broader and more general understanding of QM is probably a better goal than understanding only the aspects which EY had decided to write about. I suggest starting with the collapse interpretation because it is the easiest one to understand for a person accustomed only to classical m... (read more)

See, I might think that [http://lesswrong.com/lw/dy8/a_cynical_explanation_for_why_rationalists_worry/75ij], but many LWers (including SI staff) responded to that considering it ridiculous that one should have to understand the equations to have a meaningful opinion on the topic. So we're at odds with consensus here.
I don't claim representing consensus in the parent comment.
David wasn't trying to imply otherwise. He was making use of your comment as a context in which to snark about past disagreements he has had.
I understood that, nevertheless I used his snarky remark as a context in which to disclaim one possible misinterpretation of my original comment.
;) I suspected that, nevertheless I used your clarification as a context in which to frame the interjection in question as somewhat more in the direction of petty than incisive---my impression being that the snarkiness did not accurately represent the positions of people who have disagreed with David in the past.
Read through the sequence, but every time there is a many worlds assertion, stop and think whether adopting it lets you do anything more than feel superior to single-worlders. Take notes of the sort "without MWI, the following argument advanced by EY would not work: ...", then try to see if someone interpretation-agnostic would still be able to make the same argument. Simply learning the EY-path through QM is little better than memorizing scriptures (= guessing teacher's password). Feel free to post your progress and questions in the appropriate thread.
I think the expository part of the QM sequence can be skipped without significant loss of understanding of the broad philosophical point EY is attempting to make. However, if you are interested in QM for its own sake, I would recommend reading a quick non-pop-sci introduction to the theory before reading the sequence. Otherwise I think you will emerge from the sequence with only the illusion of understanding. In my experience on this site, it is far too common that people whose main exposure to QM is the sequence misunderstand not just the mathematics of the theory but also the conceptual structure of MWI. If you want a really good, really short introduction to the mathematics of QM, this book [http://www.amazon.com/Lectures-Quantum-Theory-Mathematical-Isham/dp/1860940013/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345355168&sr=1-2&keywords=isham] is excellent. It's written in a very engaging, non-textbooky way, so don't worry about it being a dry read. It does presume some mathematical sophistication though. If you're not comfortable with differential equations and linear algebra, I would advise against reading it. If you don't have that sort of mathematical background, read this [http://www.amazon.com/Structure-Interpretation-Quantum-Mechanics/dp/0674843924/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345355301&sr=1-1&keywords=hughes+quantum] instead. It actually is an introductory book, presuming very little knowledge on the reader's part. I recommend it over standard intro textbooks (such as Griffiths) for someone with your interests, because it focuses on developing a deep conceptual understanding of the theory rather than on doing calculations. Finally, you could try David Albert's idiosyncratic but compelling book [http://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Mechanics-Experience-David-Albert/dp/0674741137/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345355463&sr=1-1&keywords=quantum+mechanics+experience] on the philosophy of QM. Again, the book is completely introductory. It won't teach you much about the m
Are you reading the Sequence in order to learn about QM, or in order to complete the Less Wrong course in rationality? The most sober way to think about QM is as a recipe for prediction, for which there are several competing explanations, and all of which might be wrong. The Sequence aims to rise above the disputes of physicists and rationally pick the winner. It doesn't really rise above, but neither does it sink below. An argument by a physicist in favor of a specific interpretation usually contains a mix of good points and blindspots, and Eliezer's argument is at that level. Understanding why QM works is a problem of the first order, and you won't learn the answer by reading the Sequence or even by reading a hundred textbooks. But you will learn more about the problem and about what we do know; and if you read the comments, you may even avoid acquiring false knowledge. As for studying rationality, it's even easier to avoid going astray - just study the arguments bearing in mind that the specific conclusions about physics may be wrong, and ask how substantively that would affect the higher-level lessons that you're asked to draw. That SEP article is the article on MWI. The other SEP articles on QM don't say that.
As prase and David Gerard have said, to understand QM, first learn QM. The actual mathematics and physics of it, not any popularisation. When you can pass a finals exam in the subject, with distinction, making minimal use of reference materials, then you will have reached a position from which you may be able to begin to participate in useful discussions about QM. How many similarly qualified people there are on LessWrong to have such a discussion with, or who they might be, I do not know. I hasten to add that by that standard, I am certainly not one of them. I do not know QM. I hope I have never pontificated on the subject here or anywhere else, but I certainly do not do so now. Anyone wanting a quick self-test, and with access to a university library, might entertain themselves with this volume [http://www.amazon.com/Practical-Quantum-Mechanics-Classics-Mathematics/dp/3540650350], a book of exercises in QM, with worked solutions. If you can do even one of the problems at sight, and get it right, then you know more QM than you will ever discover from popularisations. When you can do all of them, you can claim to know QM.

A politically incorrect example of a mathematical theorem:

When someone (a white person) is accused of racism, and they say -- "I'm not racist, some of my best friends are black," -- they often get a response like -- "This is exactly what a racist would say."

Translated to mathematics, the fact that a white person has black friends, is considered an evidence for hypothesis that the person is a racist. Now if this line of reasoning is correct, then according to the law of conservation of expected evidence, not having black friends should b... (read more)

It is not the fact that the person has black friends that is supposed to count as evidence of their racism. It is the fact that they say that they have black friends in response to an accusation of racism. The response is the evidence, not the fact (if it is a fact) that the response is reporting. So what would be evidence against the racism hypothesis is not saying things like "I'm not racist; some of my best friends are black."

I'm not saying this is great evidence either, but it is not as obviously ridiculous as thinking that not having black friends is evidence against racism. I wouldn't be at all surprised if saying "Some of my best friends are black" is anticorrelated with actually having black best friends.

Exactly. I think this XKCD [http://xkcd.com/463/] is relavent. If someone accuses you of being a bad teacher, "It's okay! I always wear a condom while teaching" is a bad response. However, "It's okay! I never wear a condom while teaching" is even worse. Those lines of thought should never even come up as something one would think to say.
Exactly. The claim is not "You have black friends, therefore you are racist." The claim is "You think 'I have black friends' is a relevant thing to mention in response to being called on your apparently racist comments or behavior. It isn't."
There's a difference between being racist (or, more precisely, the popular perception of what being racist entails) and engaging in racist behavior.

Oh, I agree. However, folks often take the claim "Hey, that thing you just said was kinda racist" as meaning "YOU ARE AN AWFUL RACIST SCUMBAG GO DIE IN A FIRE" and respond accordingly.

That's not too surprising given that ① people generally don't like receiving criticism of their views or actions, and get defensive; and ② many people seem to believe that only "racists" (a kind of person, usually found in Nazi or Klan uniforms) do, say, or believe racist things — and therefore that if someone says you did something racist, they are calling you "a racist" and thereby predicting that you're going to go commit hate crimes.

It's unfortunate though.

It probably doesn't help that people use "racism" to mean several different things, including:

  1. Racial prejudice — having false negative beliefs about people according to their race
  2. Racial privilege — the situation where some people receive social, political, or economic advantages and others receive disadvantages on the basis of their race (see also: invisible knapsack)
  3. Racial hatred — having malicious intentions towards people on the basis of their race

Notably, people can do racist₂ things — perpetuating racial privilege — without being racist₁ or racist₃.

Would you fail to be surprised based on evidence that people who say that don't have black best friends, or because you agree with the implicit claim that that is a response a racist is likely to use? Because it seems like there's some circular logic going on somewhere. Possibly in the form of a societal feedback mechanism; non-racist people assume that's a racist's response to the question, and so don't utilize it.
My honest response to "do you have black (indian/chinese/..) friends?" is something like "no idea, I don't usually notice hair, eye or skin color". EDIT: wondering about the downvotes... does it sound non-believable or something?
That is a great signalling response, but honest? You really don't know whether your friend is black or white?
Not unless their skin is coal-black, no. For example, I was surprised to learn that Condoleezza Rice was considered "black". Same with people of East Indian, Philippino or often even Chinese descent. Then again, I live in Vancouver, Canada, where race (however you want to define it) is basically a non-issue, so I don't notice stuff like that, unless pointed out to me. Probably my personal blind spot, of course. A friend of mine (I'm pretty sure she is white) often refers to her acquaintances by their ethnicity when talking about them ("that Yemeni dude"), and I just stare blankly.
Well, as we all know, race is a purely social construct with no underlying biological basis; unfortunately, LWers are known for their very poor socializing skills and understanding of social norms. So shminux, a LWer, doesn't know? Not very surprising, actually!
I know race is a social construct, but no underlying biological basis? Isn't this Lewontin's fallacy?
No, as I understand it, Lewontin's fallacy [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22Human_genetic_diversity:_Lewontin%27s_fallacy%22_%28scientific_paper%29#Edwards.27_critique] is considered to be not the claim that there is no underlying basis, but that this is established by looking at raw percentages of between-group vs within-group variation.
Although I assume you aren't being serious, remember that shminux claimed that he doesn't notice hair, eye and skin colour. As far as I know, colour is not a purely social construct, althout if shminux were a continental philosopher, I could imagine him believing that it is.
C'mon, color is totally [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_relativity_and_the_color_naming_debate] a social construct!
There really should be a phrase for socially constructed divisions or elaborations of a continuous empirical space.
"self-fulfilling distinctions"?
This may be strongly culture-dependent. In some culture you can find many people of any skin color on your social level. In other culture, things may be completely different. In different cultures people will notice different facts, because those facts will bring different number of bits of information. For example, if there is exactly one black person in otherwise white town, and it is a well-known person (especially well-known for something that is somehow related with them being black -- for example well-known as the billionaire prince from Nigeria), then obviously everyone remembers whether they have 1 black friend or 0 black friends in the town; and if they say otherwise, I would suspect hypocrisy. Perhaps this all just shows that one should not blindly copy heuristics just because they worked in a different environment.
In my culture I can find people both straight and curly hair on every social level (and although I can't say for sure there is no hair texture to status correlation, I am not aware of any prejudices with respect to this), but it never occured to me that I could be ignorant about whether my friend has straight or curly hair. Maybe I use "friend" too restrictively.
You might be ignorant about whether some of your friends have naturally curly or straight hair.
Yes, I might, as well as I might be ignorant about whether Michael Jackson was naturally white or black. I wonder why you consider this particularly relevant.
This happens to me as well-- I was shocked recently when someone pointed out some people I interact with daily are on the black side of the spectrum. It just doesn't occur to me.
This thread needs a mention of Stephen Colbert [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Colbert_%28character%29], one of whose running jokes is that he "doesn't see race" [video] [http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/373359/february-03-2011/affirmative-reaction].
That's a bit of a bad faith interpretation; I see it as meaning something more like "Having black friends is not sufficiently strong evidence to push you out of the 'racist' category". A bit as if I spent all day laughing and pointing at ugly and disabled people, and when someone called me an asshole I replied "I'm not an asshole, I helped an old lady cross the street last week". Even assholes can point to examples of nice deeds they did, even racists can point to black "friends".
Alternatively, the immediate statement "I'm not racist" is actually the evidence that you are a racist. The additional statement "Some of my best friends are black." may or may not be evidence against racism, depending on context. It seems like one piece of evidence, but nothing stops you from taking it as two entirely different pieces of evidence and evaluating each one separately. Or alternatively, the mere context of the fact that the statement is immediate might be the indicator itself. Consider: A person named John Doe does not even appear willing to consider that they might have, for instance, offended a person of another race with whatever they just did, and they just immediately deny that person of the other race is saying something plausible and start making excuses as to why they are wrong. Ignoring John Doe's specific words for a moment, does that context make John Doe sound more or less likely to be racist?
There is a huge variety of alternatives one could offer as a defense against racism, and giving one rather than others inevitably provides evidence about the various features that get called racist. If the best defense someone can offer (assuming people lead with their best defenses) is "some of my friends are X," that can be evidence of racism by indicating the absence of more persuasive defenses, perhaps one of these: * My spouse is X * My best friend is X * My best man/maid of honor was X * My roommate is X * I am 1/4 X * I have voted for X political candidates A, B, and C * I am a member of the pro-X political group A * I chose to live in an area with a high population of X * I send my kids to a mostly-X school * I don't believe [false] racist-sounding claims A, B, C... * I don't believe [true] racist-sounding claims A, B, C... * I believe [true] anti-racist-sounding claims A, B, C... * I believe [false] anti-racist-sounding claims A, B, C * I have a low score on the IAT [https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/] for anti-X associations * I love X, an X saved my life in Iraq * I donate to charities that primarily help X folk * Haha, yeah, right [insert funny joke or self-deprecating humor as countersignaling] * I participated in the boycott against anti-Xers * Look at my demographic characteristics: in surveys and IAT studies people of my occupation, education level, religion, and political affiliations show low levels of racism, so your prior for me being racist should be low
This might actually be true. If you consider the categories of white people who would be most likely to have black people in their social network, what comes up is a list of categories correlated with racism (e.g. poverty, religiosity [http://psr.sagepub.com/content/14/1/126.abstract]).
You're forgetting an alternative here. The only possible non-racist thing to say is "I'm not racist, all of my best friends are black." Clearly, no such person can be racist. Again, by conservation of expected evidence, having any non-black friends whatsoever is evidence of racism.
As I understand it, there is no non-racist thing a white person can say in some social circles. The best bet is something like "I'm racist, but trying to become less racist."

Sadly, yes. And the best way to signal that you are trying, is to accuse other people.

And because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it is best to start accusing others even before you are accused.

(To prevent possible misunderstanding: I believe that there is real racism and real racists; and I also believe that there is a status game played about this topic. And precisely because the racism is harmful, it would be good to distinguish between real racists and people who are simply not good enough at playing this status game; and also between people who genuinely help and people who are simply good at playing this status game.)

An example of what you're talking about [http://wakingupnow.com/blog/no-h8-2] on the positive side.
For a demonstrated historical example of something very similar: There were (are?) social circles where there is no non-witch thing a presumed witch can say, nor any non-witch thing a presumed witch can do. There is no best bet: They will kill the presumed witches even if they "repent" and demonstrate willingness to correct themselves.
“Two plus two equals four.”
I should have been more exact-- something like "In some social circles, there's no way for a white person to demonstrate that they're not racist".
I'd guess that any such circle is anti-white racist, and so best avoided.
That's exactly the kind of comment a racist would post! (WARNING: THAT WAS A JOKE)