Rationality Quotes February 2012

Here's the new thread for posting quotes, with the usual rules:

 

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be voted up/down separately.  (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments.  If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.) 
  • Do not quote yourself.
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And here, according to Trout, was the reason human beings could not reject ideas because they were bad: Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity. The ideas Earthlings held didn’t matter for hundreds of thousands of years, since they couldn’t do much about them anyway. Ideas might as well be badges as anything.

Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

...the reason human beings could not reject ideas because they were bad: Ideas on Earth were badges of friendship or enmity. Their content did not matter. Friends agreed with friends, in order to express friendliness. Enemies disagreed with enemies, in order to express enmity.

The most beautiful explanation of Hansonian signalling I've seen.

With all due respect to Robin, this very thread supplies prior art for this idea :).

Having an inkling about the existence of gravity is different from figuring out the motions of all the planets. Hanson actually built the idea into useful models. He gets the name. :D

Doctor Slithingly watched the readout on the computer screen and rubbed his hands together. ‘Excellent,’ he muttered, his voice a thin, rasping hiss. ‘Excellent!’ He laughed to himself in a chilling falsetto. ‘Soon my plan will come to fruition. Soon I will destroy them all!’ The room resounded with the sound of his insane giggling. This was the culmination of years of research – years of testing tissue samples and creating unnatural biological hybrids – but now it was over. Now, finally, he would destroy them all – every single type and variation of leukaemia. In doing so, he would render useless the work of thousands of charitable organisations as well as denying medical professionals the world over a source of income. He would prevent the publication of hundreds of inspiring stories of survival and sacrifice which might otherwise have sold millions of copies worldwide. ‘Bwahaha!’ he laughed. ‘So long, you meddling haematological neoplasm, you!’

Joel Stickley, How To Write Badly Well

You are not the king of your brain. You are the creepy guy standing next to the king going "a most judicious choice, sire".

-- Steven Kaas

I'm surprised that this got 32 upvotes in a community whose members in general believe that you are your brain. Do all 32 of you believe in some sort of dualism?

Steven and most of the people here (including me) do indeed believe that "you are your brain" in the sense that the mind is something that the brain does. But Steven's epigram is using "you" in a narrower sense, referring to just the conscious, internal-monologue part of the mind.

In the fable of the fox and the grapes, it's the fox's brain that is the proximate cause of him giving up the attempt to get the grapes, but it's the "creepy vizier" part of his mind that makes up the "I didn't want them anyway" story.

(Edit: I should have said "most of the other people here" in my first sentence. In case you didn't know it, Steven Kaas is an LWer. He is kind enough to let me and others earn tons of karma by quoting his Twitter bons mots.)

I don't see how this implies dualism, nor why materialism implies some sort of ultra-strong unified mind with no divisible components such that it makes no sense to analogize to a king and vizier.

FWIW I find the quote kind of weird, as well. I don't think it's referring to dualism, but I can't figure out what it does mean.

It's illustrating the thing from psychology where your conscious self (the "you" in "you are" here) often seems to be more about making up narratives about why you do things you somewhat unconsciously decide to do, rather than fully consciously deciding to do what you do.

It's not terribly obvious normally, but scary stuff happens when you get a suitable type of brain damage. Instead of necessarily going "hm, my introspective faculties seem to be damaged and I'm doing weird stuff for no reason I can ascertain", people often start happily explaining why it is an excellent idea for the king of the brain who has been replaced with a zombie robot during the brain damage to start lumbering around moaning loudly and smashing things at random.

Yvain's post The Apologist and the Revolutionary from a couple of years ago had some fascinating and mind-boggling discussion of other bizarre things that result from particular brain damage.

"Our moods are so unstable because we are only chemicals in a saline solution - not entries in a ledger or words in a book."

--Alain de Botton

Is this true? Naive Googling yields this, which suggests (non-authoritatively) that blood sugar and moods are indeed linked (in diabetics, but it's presumably true in the general population). However, despair is not noted and the effects generally seem milder than that (true despair is a rather powerful emotion!)

Blood sugar is very closely linked to self-control, including suppression of emotion. While this may appear to be a different thing, it isn't: when you include feedback loops and association spirals, a transient, weak emotional distraction can become deep and overwhelming if normal modes of suppression fail.

See here, here and here.

Anecdotally: I'm not diabetic that I know of, but my mood is highly dependent on how well and how recently I've eaten. I get very irritable and can break down into tears easily if I'm more than four hours past due.

"He [H.G. Wells] has abandoned the sensational theory with the same honourable gravity and simplicity with which he adopted it. Then he thought it was true; now he thinks it is not true. He has come to the most dreadful conclusion a literary man can come to, the conclusion that the ordinary view is the right one. It is only the last and wildest kind of courage that can stand on a tower before ten thousand people and tell them that twice two is four."

--Heretics, G. K. Chesterton

I was interested in the context here. Chesterton was referencing Wells' original belief that the classes would differentiate until the upper class ate the lower class. Wells changed his mind to believe the classes would merge.

The entire book is free on Google Books.

At the point where those are the two hypothesises being considered there may be larger problems.

I think you've got problems at the point where you're using that language to write your hypotheses.

Wells' original belief that the classes would differentiate until the upper class ate the lower class

In the Time Machine, it's the other way round.