Another month has passed and here is a new rationality quotes thread. The usual rules are:
- Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
- Do not quote yourself.
- Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson.
- No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.
The idea of the rule is to not have this thread be an echo chamber for LessWrong and Yudkowsky quotes. As a sister site, Overcoming Bias falls under the same logic (though I think, given that the origin of LessWrong in OvecomingBias constantly becomes more distant in time, I wouldn't mind that rule getting relaxed for OvercomingBias more recent entries.)
But either way, I haven't seen that many lesswrong members participate in "hpmor/reddit" or that many hpmor/reddit members participate in lesswrong, so I think it makes sense to NOT ban hpmor/reddit quotes from this thread...
We succeeded in getting rid of the Overcoming Bias ban for several months a couple of years ago. Unfortunately someone reverted to an old version and since then it's stuck. Traditions are a nuisance to change.
You're misreading the quote. The intention is on the part of the person who designed the gun, not the person who's trying to fire it.
Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence: the Coming Machine Intelligence Revolution, chap. 2
Unix was not designed to stop its users from doing stupid things, as that would also stop them from doing clever things.
“Erudition can produce foliage without bearing fruit.” - Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
Neil Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
I don't think the conclusion follows.
It's entirely consistent to believe that the level of something is too high and has been too high for a long time, yet to not oppose it in principle.
The correct question to detect if that's really their objection is not "have they ever thought that the level is too low"--the correct question is "would they ever under any circumstances think that the level is too low". Of course, you're not going to get as many "no" answers with that as with your original formulation.
Not, perhaps, a rationality quote per se, but a delightful subversion of a harmful commonplace.
"Here are the ten major principles of rapid skill acquisition:
The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! by Josh Kaufman.
-- F. A. Hayek
And perhaps not after that, either.
-- Donna Ball (writing as Donna Boyd), The Passion
What exactly was claimed to be a fact and how do you know it's false?
Um. Really? What do you call primitive life, then? Does it include contemporary medicine, for example?
Because the consequences of losing are so terrible, people tend to avoid serious fighting if they can. Being hunted - a far more likely state - is decidedly un-fun.
Do you have data for prevalence in this respect?
As a martial artist and as someone whose been in fear of getting the crap knocked out of them in the past this just doesn't line up with my experience. There's a degree of focus that goes on in fights that largely excluded feelings of excitement, it's not like being on a rollercoaster. At least not for me. Fighting feels more like floating if it can be said to be like anything,I just get incredibly tuned in and a lot stronger than usual.
Admittedly I don't think everyone experiences it like that, some people probably do enjoy it.
I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it.
--Harry Dresden, Summer Knight, Jim Butcher
Here's the thing about air-travel-related complaints.
Air travel is really unpleasant. Oh sure, it's technologically impressive, but the actual experience is terrible: sitting in a cramped space for hours on end, being in close proximity to so many other people; the pressure changes and the noise; the long, tiring process of arriving for your flight, which often takes longer than the actual flight and is quite stressful; the humiliating and absurd security procedures, which these days look more and more like ways for the government to gratuitously exercise its power...
So we've got this really impressive means of travel, which our society seems to have conspired to make as unpleasant as humanly possible. Ok, maybe it's all excusable and inevitable, just for the sheer amazingness of "ooh, we're FLYING through the AIR and so FAST!" etc. But then, after we pay the airline such impressive amounts of money for this amazing-but-unpleasant convenience, they don't deign to even serve us good drinks?
And what do the drinks have to do with how technologically impressive flight is, anyway? Are the people responsible for the drinks also the people who build, maintain, and fly the planes... (read more)
You're using this remarkable set of interacting or interdependent components of interlinked hypertext documents in a global system of interconnected computer networks powered by a flow of electric charge to whine about a rationality quote! How quaint.
That honestly seems like some kind of fallacy, although I can't name it. I mean, sure, take joy in the merely real, that's a good outlook to have; but it's highly analogous to saying something like "Average quality of life has gone up dramatically over the past few centuries, especially for people in major first world countries. You get 50-90 years of extremely good life - eat generally what you want, think and say anything you want, public education; life is incredibly great. But talk to some people, I absolutely promise you that you will find someone who, in the face of all that incredible achievement, will be willing to complain about [starving kid in Africa|environmental pollution|dying peacefully of old age|generally any way in which the world is suboptimal]."
That kind of outlook not only doesn't support any kind of progress, or even just utility maximization, it actively paints the very idea of making things even better as presumptuous and evil. It does not serve for something to be merely awe-inspiring; I want more. I want to not just watch a space shuttle launch (which is pretty cool on its own), but also have a drink that tastes better than any other in the world... (read more)
I am not qualified to answer this, but it seems to me like this. I am also not saying that this is the only or the greatest problem. Just that it already exists.
Let's start with a naive question: How is it possible that so many people are unemployed and yet there are so many things that should be done but no one (or not nearly enough people) is doing them?
This is typically answered by: Not everything that is useful is also profitable. Some things are not done because it is not possible (or not easy enough for an average person, with all the natural lack of strategy) to make money doing them. All those unemployed people are trying to get some more money; of course they will not choose activities they can't make money from.
But this is not a complete answer. First, there are many non-profitable activities, and yet many people are doing them. So perhaps the causality is not (merely) "can make money -> does the work", but (also, significantly) "does many things -> makes money on average". (Or using the signalling hypothesis: Middle-class people are more likely to do non-protitable activities, because it signals they make enough money to live decently so they do... (read more)
I'm certainly cynical, but I see the point complaining about the drinks.
Not all airplane tickets are selled the same price. But basically everybody in the plane get the same share of progress, science, technology and man labour and sweat.
Henceforth how to account for the princing difference ?
The drinks, people.
Our PLANET is mind-numbingly big. If you don’t believe me go to the grand canyon and look down. Did I say go to the grand canyon? Make that HIKE to the grand canyon from yellowstone national park. Still not convinced? ROW across the ocean to china. Bonus points if you can hit Japan without a gps.
So in a twisted sort of sense, the milky-way galaxy is less mind-bogglingly big, because our [or at least my] built-in distance-comprehension hardware shorts out so quickly when attempting to deal with the milky way galaxy we don't really even notice it and so we switch to rigorous numbers which do not have this short-circuiting problem.
One of the stronger examples of Bayesian updating in fiction, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 2, episode 13
This seems slightly off both in terms of what (the writer intends us to infer) is going on in Oz's head, and what ought to be going on. First, it seems that Oz may have considered vampires or other supernatural explanations, but dismissed them using the absurdity heuristic, or perhaps what we can call the "Masquerade heuristic" - that's where people who live in a fictional world full of actual vampires and demons and whatnot nevertheless heurise as though they lived in ours. (Aside: Is 'heurise' a reasonable verbing of "use heuristics?") Upon hearing that his friends take the theory seriously (plus perhaps whatever context caused them to make these remarks) he reconsiders without the absurdity penalty.
Second, what should be going on is that Oz has theories A, B, C with probabilities adding up to 1-epsilon, where epsilon is the summed probability of "All those explanations which I haven't had time to explicitly consider as theories".... (read more)
Greg Egan, The Eternal Flame, ch. 38
-- Jerry Avorn, quoted here.
-- David Ricardo
There's more pressure on a vet to get it right. People say "it was god's will" when granny dies, but they get angry when they lose a cow.
What? Putting down pets or livestock isn't that uncommon, whereas people go way out of their way (I seem to recall Robin Hanson mentioning a two-digit percentage of the US GDP, though I can't seem to find it) to prolong human lives long after they're no longer worth living.
Tyrion Lannister in George R.R. Martin's A Clash of Kings
Most importantly, you are telling the world that anyone saying the same thing is in a risk of losing their tongue, regardless of correctness of the information.
That makes it cheaper for people to argue against the information than to argue for it.
And that increases that chance that people will finally consider him a liar.
“The future is always ideal: The fridge is stocked, the weather clear, the train runs on schedule and meetings end on time. Today, well, stuff happens.”
Michel de Montaigne, Essays, "On habit"
Yes. One option is to use it as a memorable trigger- "Oh, I'm making mistake X, like the proverb"- and then amend behavior. (This is one of the reasons why it's worth trying to word proverbs as memorably as possible- rhyming helps quite a bit. If your actions you want to jigger, then do not fail to set a trigger! Sometimes it works better than others.)
A superior option is, upon seeing the maxim, to contemplate it fully, and plan out now how it could be avoided in some way, and then practice that offline.
In general, though, de Montaigne is highlighting the general thrust of Less Wrong. Knowing the ways in which people in general make mistakes is most useful to you if you use that knowledge to prevent yourself from making that mistake, and a general mistake people make is to not do that!
-Dennett's Law of Needy Readers, Daniel Dennett
This law according to Dennett is an extension of Schank's Law:
From a Bayesian point of view, this is as it must be. People have priors and will assess anything new as a diff (of log-odds) from those priors. Even understanding what you are saying, before considering whether to update towards it, is subject to this. You will always be understood as saying whatever interpretation of your words is the least surprising to your audience.
BTW, this is standard in natural language processing (which is what a lot of Schank's AI work was in). When a sentence is ambiguous, choose the least surprising interpretation, the one containing the least information relative to your current knowledge.
The narrower your audience's priors, the more of a struggle it will be for them to hear you; the narrower your priors, the more you will struggle to hear them.
Having shown how Schank's Law is but an instance of Bayesian inference, I trust you will all find it acceptably unsurprising. :)
The Doctor - Doctor Who
The convention I was taught is that "This... and that" is quoting someone who pauses after 'This', while "This [...] and that" indicates that I elided something. This seems to me both useful and clear.
John McCarthy, adapted a line by T.H. Huxley
I'm fine with this quote as long as the conclusion is not "So let's just do science without any philosophy!"
Because usually that just means doing science with unexamined philosophical assumptions while deluding yourself that you're being objective. This goes badly; e.g., Copenhagen interpretation, neurobabble ("Libet experiment proves you have no free will!").
xkcd explains that the absence of evidence is evidence of absence .
No, it’s absence of evidence if you notice that we have ready access to high-resolution videos of innumerable rare events and elusive animals.
And yet the best footage of UFOs, ghosts, and Bigfoot still consists of some blurry, hazy, shiny, or dark blob smeared somewhere in a couple of frames of a shaky video at the absolute limit of the camera, exactly the same as forty years ago. Which is exactly what you’d expect to see if these were in fact normal things and optical artifacts that are perfectly explainable when they’re actually close enough to see.
-- Robert Jay Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism
Princess Bubblegum in Adventure Time.
— Daniel Davies
When we roll our eyes at business school grads, it isn't because we don't believe in measuring anything. It's the same eyeroll that the 10 O'Clock news gets when they report the newest study linking molasses and cancer, which has nothing to do with my lack of belief in studies about cancer.
Bernard de Fontenelle,1686
Found in book review
— Charles Sanders Peirce
-- Denis Healey
Nick Beckstead, On the Overwhelming Importance of Shaping the Far Future, University of Rutgers, New Brunswick, 2013, p. 19
It should also be noted that if one doesn't start wishing for a horse, the probability of obtaining one decreases furtherly.
I know this is meant to be a call to action instead of contemplation, but sometimes I've heard it quoted intending : "Be and adult, stop whishing for very-difficoult-to-obtain things", and this is a statement I don't agree with.
Always drive within your competence, at a speed which is appropriate to the circumstances so that you can stop safely in the distance that you can see to be clear.
In driving, as in life.
This advice really only applies in contexts where the risks of failure substantially outweigh the rewards of success. This isn't true in many contexts; if they're approximately equally balanced, it makes sense to attempt to work slightly above your level of competence in order to improve your skill, and if the rewards of success substantially outweigh the risks of failure it makes sense to be even more risk-loving.
It's very easy for a rich person to become poor: just give all you have away. It's very hard for a poor person to become rich: almost all of them try, and very few succeed.
If people found, on reflection, that being poor was better than being rich, then they would give their wealth away. We don't observe this.
Therefore I believe being rich is better, even without the benefit of personal experience.
Rich can be worse than poor, knowledge can be worse than ignorance, sickness can be better than health, and death can be better than life. But none of these are the way to bet.
It is also worth considering the relevant causal graph. Wealth --> Happiness allows of such exceptions. But what do they look like in terms of the causal graph Wealth --> Happiness <-- Character? If someone can't handle a sudden accession of money, is it the money or their personal failings that should be blamed? If you see a friend in that situation, do you advise them to get rid of their money or learn to handle it better?
Tyler Cowen, ‘Caring about the Distant Future: Why it Matters and What it Means’, University of Chicago Law Review, vol. 74, no. 1 (Winter, 2007), p. 10
They are different because when we pack the spaceship with fuel, we control with reasonable certainty whether they make a safe landing or not. As for our millions-of-years descendants, it's very hard to make any statement about us effecting them with >51% confidence (except, "we shouldn't exterminate ourselves").
A lot of what looks like time discounting is really uncertainty discounting.
Check out this diagram for an example of two different worldlines (A and B) without any difference in duration, magnitude or spatial direction of acceleration. The accelerated segments are in red.
Wilkie Collins, Man and Wife, Chapter the Twentieth
Anna Salamon (paraphrase)
Do we allow quotes from lesswrong users and CFAR instructors now?
A policy that disallows Robin Hanson quotes but permits quotes from Anna Salamon would seem peculiar to me.
Roberts, naturally, has substantial interest in avoiding any criticism, and the work of people like Ioannides and the eternal life of the publication bias says that if anything, we are insufficiently critical...
I think we're looking at the wrong kind of criticism. Like, the kind of criticism you can make with almost equal ease of results that will and won't turn out to replicate later.
One of the more useful class discussions I had consciously started with the opposite. The first question was what was good and useful in the week's reading. We proceeded to criticism, but starting with "is there anything useful here?" made the discussion more useful and positive.
William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act 1, Scene 2. I found the quote in The Happiness Hypothesis where this book's author wrote "Pleasure comes more from making progress toward goals than from achieving them."
Penny Arcade on Pascal's Wager.
I believe that one's meant to be a Japanese proverb.
-- Bill Vaughan, accidentally anticipating the dangers of UFAI in 1969
You can also turn that around.
Suffice to say that AGI is a really big lever.
"Whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is false."
I can't find the original source for this, but I got it from an image floating around Facebook.
I think the main thing that can be said to defend keeping the Constitution is simply that it is a Schelling point. We need some way to base our system of laws. What system do you choose? There are arguments for many options, and I'm not saying the Constitution is necessarily the best. But due to what you may perhaps call a historical accident, the Constitution is where we are now. This makes it a Schelling point for all the different options for a system to base our laws on.
Stanislaw Lem, The Futurological Congress (1971)
Instructor in The Guardian comment section
"It's not real science fiction, it's just a ___ in space" is a common and tempting meme, but I'm not sure it holds together when you think about it. Imagine if we were to apply this reasoning to other genres, maybe even to Westerns themselves. "It's not a Western, it's just a romance with horses and cowboys. To be a real Western the Western setting must have some effect on the plot, but a romance can happen in any context. Just replace 'barmaid' with 'minimum wage clerk'" "It's not a police drama, it's a Western, they're just chasing each other using cars instead of horses. You're not exploring the social consequences of the fact that they're in a 21st century police station rather than just a sheriff in the West".
Or do it more narrowly. "Sure, it has some science fiction elements, but most of it is still a Western. The cloning device has social consequences that affect the story, but the spaceships and lasers don't. It could just as easily be a story that has a cloning device but is set in the modern era without any spaceships or lasers."
Actually, I find it hard to think of many stories where spaceships and lasers would have an effe... (read more)
Scott Aaronson on optimal philanthropy (quoted somewhat out of context):... (read more)
Stranger-Come-Knocking on why rationalists win life-or-death fights in The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
Derek Parfit, On What Matters, vol. 2, Oxford, 2011, p. 616
I would be happier with this quote if the emphasis were on "think," because impossibility proofs are possible sometimes.
-- Rene Descartes, Meditations On First Philosophy
Demonizing the other is the prelude to the subsequent doing of demonic things to that other.
If you could damage wires in a certain way and make the voices forget how to pronounce nouns, eliminate their short-term but not long-term memory, damage their color words, and so on, you would have a solid case for the wires doing internal, functional information-processing in causal arrangements which permitted the final output to be permuted in ways that corresponded to perturbing particular causal nodes. In much the same way, a calculator might be thought to be a radio if you are ignorant of its internals, but if you have a hypothesis that the calculator contains a binary half-adder and you can perturb particular transistors and see wrong answers in a way that matches what the half-adder hypothesis predicts for perturbing that transistor, you have shown the answers are generated internally rather than externally. In a world where we can directly monitor a cat's thalamus and reconstruct part of its visual processing field, the radio hypothesis is not just privileging a hypothesis without evidence, it is frantically clinging to a hypothesis with strong contrary evidence in denial of a hypothesis with detailed confirming evidence.
This isn't an ancient pre-scientific text; it was written in 2011. I completely disagree with the claim that:
There's also nothing in our current science that rules out a teapot orbiting the sun. That does not mean a hypothesis with no evidence for it should be elevated to the level of serious discussion.
There is no reason to think the brain could possibly be receiving "marching orders" from elsewhere, and we absolutely should discard this concept and rule firmly against it. And the same goes for any other equally unfounded ideas that this is an allegory for.
No, because there is an infinity of ideas you could consider. You must wait until evidence weighs sufficiently in favor of some one idea to elevate it above the others, before considering it at all.
I'm not clear whether this morally violates the third rule (some clarification on this would be appreciated), but I liked this quote a lot so here goes.